An acclamation used by the people on Palm Sunday in greeting Jesus on His last entry into Jerusalem, and afterwards by the children in the Temple (Mt 21:9,15). It occurs six times in the Gospels (all in the connexion above noted).
The expression, which has preserved its Hebrew form (like 'Amen' and 'Hallelujah'), was originally (in Hebrew) a cry addressed to God 'Save now'! used as an invocation of blessing. When the word passed over (transliterated into Greek) into the early Church it was misunderstood as a shout of homage or greeting = 'Hail' or 'Glory to.'
The simplest form of the Palm Sunday greeting occurs in Mr 11:9 and Joh 12:13 'Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,' which really was the cry of the people. The additions that occur in the other passages ('Hosanna to the son of David,' Mt 21:9,15, and 'Hosanna in the highest,' Mt 21:9; Mr 11:10) seem really to be later amplifications due to misunderstanding of the real meaning of 'Hosanna.' The Hosanna cry (cf. Ps 118:25 f.) and the palm branches naturally suggest the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people used to raise the cry of 'Hosanna,' while marching in procession and waving branches of palm, myrtle, and willow. The great occasion for this was especially the 7th day of the Feast, when the Hosanna processions were most frequent. Hence this day was early designated 'Day of Hosha'na' [Hosanna], and the lulab branches then used also received the same name. It was the greatest of popular holidays, probably the lineal descendant of an old Canaanitish festival, and still retains its joyous character in the Jewish Festival calendar (Hosha'na Rabba).
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