PALM SUNDAY - PUSSY WILLOW SUNDAY
After Palm Sunday services, it was customary for Ukrainians exiting church to gently tap each other with the blessed pussy willow branches. This custom, known as “Boze Rany” (“God’s Wounds”) was done to imitate the scourging of Jesus by His captors on Holy Friday. But the tapping of friends with the pussy willow branches was actually a wish for good health, wealth and happiness. That is because the tapping was usually accompanied by the phrase: “Bud’ velyki yak verba, zdorovi ’yak voda, bohati yak zemlia’. “This expression translates as: “Be as big as the willow, healthy as water, rich as the earth”. The blessed willow branches were then taken home. Some were planted by the father or oldest son. If they took root, it meant many good things would come to the family that year. Most of the blessed pussy willow branches were placed in frot of, behind or above holy pictures in the home. These branches would replace the branches that had been placed the previous year. The branches which were taken down were carefully burned.
READING OF THE GOSPEL
Holy Thursday, known as Velykyi Chetver or Strasty Khrysta, is a day to commemorate Christ’s passion. In doing this, everything must be washed or cleaned, and all food should be cooked or baked. All of the household work must be completed on Holy Thursday, as after Holy Thursday there is no work permitted. Time spent after Holy Thursday is dedicated to various religious services.
“Velykodn ‘ia Piatnytsia”, Good Friday, is a solemn time that commemorates the day our Lord was crucified. This day is observed as a strict fast, so no meat or dairy products are consumed. No manual labor is allowed. All conversation is done quietly. Part of the services of that day includes the ancient custom of the Veneration of the Holy Shroud (“Plaschenytsia”). The Holy Shroud is a representation of the sheet that Christ was buried in following his death on the cross. The body of Jesus with His wounds is depicted, laying in repose, often pictured with other individuals who were part of the events of Good Friday, such as Joseph and Nicodemus, who took Jesus down from the cross.
There is also a solemn procession around the church, lead by a worshipper carrying the Crucifix. In the procession, the elders of the parish carry the Holy Shroud, the priest carries the Holy Eucharist and the altar boys carry lighted candles and the wooden clappers. This procession is symbolic of the journey from Christ’s Crucifixion on Calvary to His Tomb. The procession reenters the front doors of the church and the Holy Shroud is placed on a representative tomb. The tomb is usually surrounded on three sides by candles, palms and flowers. As a show of devotion and adoration, the faithful approach the “Plaschenytsia” on their knees, make the Sign of the Cross and kiss all five wounds of Christ pictured on the Holy Shroud. The time between noon and three o’clock is known as the “Devotion of Three Hours”. During that time, members of families and church organizations take turns keeping vigil as guards of honor at the Holy Grave.