And now Jesus arranged His procession. The Apostles He ordered to proceed, two and two, before Him, saying that from this moment and after His death, they should everywhere head the Community (the Church). Peter went first, followed by those that were to bear the Gospel to the most distant regions, while John and James the Less immediately preceded Jesus. All carried palm branches. As soon as the two disciples that were waiting near Bethphage spied the procession coming, they hurried forward to meet it, taking with them the two animals. The she-ass was covered with trappings that hung to its feet, the head and tail alone being visible.
Jesus now put on the beautiful festal robe of fine white wool which one of the disciples had brought with him for that purpose. It was long and flowing with a train. The broad girdle that confined it at the waist bore an inscription in letters. He then put around His neck a wide stole that reached to the knees, on the two ends of which something like shields was embroidered in brown. The two disciples assisted Jesus to mount the cross-seat on the ass. The animal had no bridle, but around its neck was a narrow strip of stuff that hung down loose. I know not whether Jesus rode on the she-ass or on its foal, for they were of the same size. The riderless animal ran by the other’s side. Eliud and Silas walked on either side of the Lord, and Eremenzear behind Him; then followed the disciples most recently received, some of whom He had brought back with Him from His last great journey, and others that had been received still later.
When the procession was ranged in order, the holy women, two and two, brought up the rear. The Blessed Virgin, who up to this time had always stayed in the background, now went at their head. As the procession moved forward, all began to sing, and the people of Bethphage, who had gathered around the two disciples while they were awaiting Jesus’ coming, followed after like a swarm. Jesus reminded the disciples of what He had previously told them to notice, namely, those that would spread their garments in His path, those that would break off branches from the trees, and those that would render Him the double honor, for these last would devote themselves and their worldly goods to His service.
From Bethania to Jerusalem, the traveler in those days met Bethphage to the right and rather more in the direction of Bethlehem. The Mount of Olives separated the two roads. It lay on low, swampy ground, and was a poor little place consisting of only a row of houses on either side of the road. The house near which the asses were grazing stood some distance from the road in a beautiful meadow between Bethphage and Jerusalem. On this side the road ascended, but on the other, it sank into the valley between Mount Olivet and the hills of Jerusalem. Jesus had tarried awhile between Bethania and Bethphage, and it was on the road beyond the latter place that the two disciples were waiting for Him with the ass.
In Jerusalem, the vendors and people whom Eremenzear and Silas had that morning told to clear the Temple because the Lord was coming, began straightaway and most joyfully to adorn the road. They tore up the pavement and planted trees, the top branches of which they bound together to form an arch, and then hung them with all kinds of yellow fruit like very large apples. The disciples that Jesus had sent on to Jerusalem, innumerable friends who had gone up to the city for the approaching feast (the roads were swarming with travelers), and many of the Jews that had been present at Jesus’ last discourse crowded to that side of the city by which He was expected to enter. There were also many strangers in Jerusalem. They had heard of the raising of Lazarus, and they wished to see Jesus. Then when the news spread that He was approaching, they too went out to meet Him.
“The Stones Would Cry Out”
The road from Bethphage to Jerusalem ran through the lower part of the valley of Mount Olivet, which was not so elevated as the plateau upon which the Temple stood. Going up from Bethphage to the Mount of Olives, one could see, through the high hills that bordered the route on either side, the Temple standing opposite. From this point to Jerusalem the road was delightful, full of little gardens and trees.
Crowds came pouring out of the city to meet the Apostles and disciples, who were approaching with songs and canticles. At this juncture, several aged priests in the insignia of their office stepped out into the road and brought the procession to a standstill. The unexpected movement silenced the singing. The priests called upon Jesus to say what He meant by such proceedings on the part of His followers, and why He did not prohibit this noise and excitement. Jesus answered that if His followers were silent, the stones on the road would cry out. At these words, the priests retired.
Then the High Priests took counsel together and ordered to be called before them all the husbands and relatives of the women that had gone out of Jerusalem with the children to meet Jesus. When they made their appearance in answer to the summons, they were all shut up in the great court, and emissaries were sent out to spy what was going on.
Many among the crowd that followed Jesus to the Temple not only broke off branches from the trees and strewed them in the way, but snatched off their mantles and spread them down, singing and shouting all the while. I saw many that had quite despoiled themselves of their upper garments for that purpose. The children had rushed from the schools, and now ran rejoicing with the crowd. Veronica, who had two children by her, threw her own veil in the way and, snatching another from one of the children, spread that down also. She and the other women joined the holy women, who were in the rear of the procession. There were about seventeen of them. The road was so thickly covered with branches, garments, and carpets that the procession moved on quite softly through the numerous triumphal arches that spanned the space between the walls on either side.
Jesus wept, as did the Apostles also, when He told them that many who were now shouting acclamations of joy would soon deride Him, and that a certain one would even betray Him. He looked upon the city, and wept over its approaching destruction. When He entered the gate, the cries of joy became still greater. Many sick of all kinds had been led or carried thither, consequently Jesus frequently halted, dismounted, and cured all without distinction. Many of His enemies had mingled with the crowd, and they now uttered cries with a view to raise an insurrection.
The nearer to the Temple, the more magnificent was the ornamentation of the road. On either side hedges had been put up to form enclosures, in which little animals with long necks, kids, and sheep, all adorned with garlands and wreaths around their neck, were skipping about as if in little gardens. The background of these enclosures was formed of bushes. In this part of the city there were always, and especially toward the Paschal feast, chosen animals for sale, pure and spotless, destined for sacrifice. To move from the city gate to the Temple, although a distance of about half an hour only, the procession took three hours.
By this time the Jews had ordered all the houses, as well as the city gate, to be closed, so that when Jesus dismounted before the Temple, and the disciples wanted to take the ass back to where they had found it, they were obliged to wait inside the gate till evening. In the Temple were the holy women and crowds of people. All had to remain the whole day without food, for this part of the city had been barricaded. Magdalen was especially troubled by the thought that Jesus had taken no nourishment.
When toward evening the gate was again opened, the holy women went back to Bethania, and Jesus followed later with the Apostles…
[resources: The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ]