In the days of kings and emperors, the “progress” referred to the sovereign’s journey. That tour was highlighted by the entry of the ruler into the city. Nothing prevented this from being a grand occasion with processions, ceremonies, singing, speeches, and whatever else the citizens could offer to celebrate the “progress” of the king, his visitation and their abundant hospitality offered in gratitude for being who he was, their sovereign and benefactor.
This “progress” is similar to what happens in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus requisitions an “ass” and a “colt,” with the assistance of two disciples and with what sounds like a royal command: “The master has need of them” (Matthew 21:3). It is to be noted that in some cultures, such as this one, the “progress” of the ruler riding an “ass” and a “colt” was a sign of peace (cf. Zechariah 9:9). A ruler riding a horse, on the other hand, would have indicated he was preparing for or returning from battle. The crowds also “spread their cloaks on the road” (Matthew 21:8) and “cut branches from the trees” to strew on the road (Matthew 21:8). Finally no “progress” would be complete without acclamation, so the crowds precede our Lord and cry out: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). It is no accident that in the ancient ritual of the Catholic Mass these very words conclude the “Preface” which heralds the Eucharistic coming of our Lord.
This grand “progress” of Palm Sunday, a celebratory entrance with shouts of praise and glory, will end with cries of “Crucify him!” (cf. Luke 23:21). Thus, we encounter the fickleness of the crowd. And what of our own?