Burning Palms | The Community
The Anglican Church of Canada home page
Sites at the Anglican Church of CanadaFind a ChurchFrequently Asked QuestionsStaff Listing

Burning Palms

Burning palms on an Ash Wednesday Youth release day

Burning palms on an Ash Wednesday Youth release day. Photo (c) 2012, Elizabeth Steeves.

Tomorrow is likely the last day for people to bring the palm crosses and fronds, blessed last year at Palm Sunday, back to church. They’ll be burned this week to make the ashes that we’ll use on Ash Wednesday, imposed on our forehead in the sign of the cross, reminding us that we are dust and to dust we will return.

As you can see in the photo, I like to use a torch to help me burn the palms: they never really burn that well, and it lets me keep flame on them as they start to go out–so that they can burn up completely before I break out the mortar & pestle.

I was delighted to come across a prayer yesterday, shared by the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission on their Facebook page, composed by Jennifer Phillips, for the burning of the palms.

Blessed God, whose child, Jesus, walked the path of suffering and death
in order to open to us the gates of everlasting life:
with the burning of these palms,
make us mindful that all worldly triumph turns to dust,
and all earthly joy is mingled with sorrow,
yet through Christ, even at the grave we make our song
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

I like this moment (yes, better when I don’t summon the kindly neighbourhood firefighters as I did a couple of years ago–pesky smoke alarms inside open doors). I like watching the flames dance as the palms writhe and curl and blacken before their edges turn white and they cease to burn. I like being part of this moment, and have really enjoyed sharing it with  a group of young people the last couple of years. I like the process of watching the large pile of palms shrink to embers, before being crumbled into a still smaller pile of ash. I like this moment of preparation that, as much as Ash Wednesday, helps me prepare to keep a holy Lent.

Will you burn palms this year? What special memories do you have of helping with their burning? How do you prepare for Lent?

Matthew Griffin

About Matthew Griffin

I'm a priest serving in the Diocese of Niagara, with both a pastoral and an academic interest in the relationship between liturgy and theology. I enjoy reading, cooking, and spending time with my beloved and our young son.
This entry was posted in Liturgy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to "Burning Palms"

  • Matthew Griffin