Hebrew word, meaning “save us.” In the Coptic liturgy, it relates to Palm Sunday. In the 12th century, Abu al-Makarim wrote his book, the History of the Churches and Monasteries in Egypt. The feast of Palm Sunday was a special ceremony in his church (Church of the Holy Virgin in Haret Zuwylah in Old Cairo):
The priest and the laity of that church are accustomed to assemble in the church on the feast of the Olive every year, where they pray in the early morning. Then they come out of the church to the street in which that church stands carrying the olive branches, the Bible, the crosses, the censers and the tapers, where they pray and read the Bible. They pray on behalf of the Caliph and his vizier. Then they return to the Church to spend there the rest of the day. They repeat the same rite on the second and the third days of the feast of the Cross, which is celebrated on the 17th of Thot every year.
All these feasts were abolished during the dynasty of al-Ghuzz and al-Kurds in the year 565 a.h. (1169 a.d.).
The same author mentioned that the Procession of the Olive during Palm Sunday in Alexandria would start at night in the city:
They used to cross the city from the Church of St. Sergius [Abu Sargah] to the Church of Soter [the Savior] with supplication and reading. But the Muslims who attacked this tradition caused many troubles, and they prevented it for 25 years. Then the Procession of the Olive [Palm Sunday] reappeared during the reign of Mizwa in the year 444 a.h. [1053 a.d.] during the patriarchate of Christodoulos, the 66th patriarch of Alexandria, and again appeared during the reign of al-Amir. The rite continued for many years, before being abolished during the dynasty of al-Ghuzz and the Kurds in the year 565 [1169 a.d.].
Ibn Kabar in his encyclopedia The Lamp of Darkness for the Explanation of the Service states, We pray the Asheya [Vespers] in the night of Lazarus Saturday. We sing the tunes of the feast of the Cross. We sing a hymn of the above mentioned feast which is, “Go on the highest mountain . . .” We pray the rite of Psalmodia and we go in procession with the olive branches around the Church. We gather the olive branches and the palm. We stop in front of the altar, the icons and at every station we stop in a place we sing the Psalm and the Gospel in Coptic in addition to some hymns and the commentary of the Feast with the tune of [feast] the Cross.
Some do this after the Psalmodia and before the Matins, others do this after the Matins and before the Prayer of the Gospel (which is actually observed). The readings of the gospel while processing the palm are different from one church to another. The custom in the Church of Mo‘allaqa in Old-Cairo, is to read the story of Zaccheus from the Gospel of St. Luke whilst standing before an icon of Palm Sunday; the gospel passage speaking about the end of the world is read before the icon of John the Baptist together with the passage commemorating his memory.
Before the door on the right of the iconstacles [women’s section], the story of the centurion is read from the Gospel of St. Luke. The story of the Annunciation is read whilst standing before the icon of the Theotokos [Mother of God]. The ceremony continues in front of every icon and other stations. In the Monastery of Shahran, they would read a suitable part before each icon and altars in the monastery. Near the kitchen is read the story of the five loaves and the two fish. Besides the tombs are read passages relating to burials. In the Monastery of Saint Macarius, the custom is to go in procession holding palms in and around the monastery (when processing to the cells outside).
The tradition of people of Upper Egypt has the hermenia and dogmata, composed from the Psalms of David, which are mentioned in a book called El-Kafus. They choose parts from the psalms and they sing according to the place where they pass, river, sand, hill, green grass, tree and other things.
Here is the tradition of the Egyptians [those of Old Cairo]: After the procession, they return back with the olive to the main altar. They pray the litany for the gospel and they sing the psalm and hence they finish the matins and celebrate the liturgy. The best is the Anaphora of St. Gregory, which is more suitable for the feasts of our Lord. When they finished the liturgy and during communion, they do not say Psalm 150 but instead pray the funerary rite, that is, the Epistle of Paul, the Psalms, the gospels of the funerary rite, up until the time the Eucharist is offered.
The reason of this rite is that during Holy Week the church does not officiate funerary services, but in the case of a death, the church will only do a reading from the law (Pentateuch). For this reason, the fathers instituted these prayers during Palm Sunday. We read the whole or a part of the service, according to the time. Beginning with vespers, tunes of the Holy Week are used.
Ibn Sabba‘ (Yuhanna ibn Abi Zakariyya ibn Sabba‘) gave a shorter description of the rite of Palm Sunday in his book Precious Pearl in the Ecclesiastic Science. He mentioned that the reading from the four Gospels before the liturgy should be done in the four corners of the church and added that no procession should take place on this day, but only during the feasts of the Cross. It is hard to examine this local tradition.
The traditions mentioned by Abu al-Makarim and other authors show clearly that there was a procession on this day. Maqrizi is a Muslim historian from the 15th century. He compiled his chronicles from various sources; some of them are Coptic in addition to his own observations. Concerning the Coptic Passover he wrote regarding Palm Sunday:
the feast of Olive known also to them as the feast of Hosanna [Shaanin] means the proclaiming. It is the seventh Sunday of their lent and according to their tradition in the Feast of Shaanin they go out of the church with palm branches. They say that this is the day in which Christ entered into Jerusalem [al-Qods] and Zion riding on a donkey followed by the multitudes singing Hosanna. . . . In this feast, the Christians in Misr [Old Cairo] used to decorate their Churches. It happens when it was the last day of Rajjab 378 a.h. [989 a.d.], the feast of Shaanin [Hosanna], Hakim Bi-Amar alia Abu Ali Mansur ibn al Aziz Bi-allah forbade Christians from decorating their Churches and to go in procession with the palm branches according to their custom.
We may notice that the processions with palms branches used to be around the city. A comparison between manuscripts shows clearly that each church and monastery has its own stations in the procession of Palm Sunday. The first publication of the Book of the Procession was edited by Philotheus al-Maqari, Barnabah al-Baramusi and Claudius Girgis in 1921. No Catholic edition has been published to date.