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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Hosanna! Hosanna?

Were the crowds praising Jesus or crying out for his help?

We have learned to imagine the scene so well: Jesus enters Jerusalem on the back of a donkey as the gathering crowds wave palm fronds and shout Hosanna! We hear them extolling praises as he enters the city.

captionYet the word that comes to us through Greek transliteration as hosanna is not a word of praise. It’s a prayer, cried out in Hebrew as hoshi’ah-nah, which means “please save.” We find it in the lines of Psalm 118:

Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the
Lord (25-26).
And, skipping two lines:
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar (27).

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December issue

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