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It is applied in numerous verses of the New Testament including "Hosanna; blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11.9), "hosanna in the highest" (Mark 11.10); "hosanna to the Son of David" (Matt 21:9). The old interpretation "Save, now!", based on Psalm 118:25, does not fully explain the occurrence of the word in the Gospels as a shout of jubilation, and this has given rise to complex discussions.
In a liturgical context, it refers to a cry expressing an appeal for divine help.
In Jewish liturgy, the word is applied specifically to the Hoshana Service, a cycle of prayers from which a selection is sung each morning during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. The complete cycle is sung on the seventh day of the festival, which is called Hoshana Rabbah (הושענא רבא, "Great Hosanna").
"Hosanna" was the shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" It is used in the same way in Christian praise, especially on Palm Sunday which commemorates that event.
The "Hosanna Anthem", based on the phrase Hosanna, is a traditional Moravian Church anthem written by Bishop Christian Gregor of Herrnhut sung on Palm Sunday and the first Sunday of Advent. It is antiphonal, i.e. a call-and-response song; traditionally, it is sung between the children and adult congregation, though it is not unheard of for it to be done in other ways, such as between choir and congregation, or played between trombone choirs.
Hosanna was the subject of a religious song by Henry Purcell.
"Hosanna" is also the name of one of the songs featured in the 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The song occurs in the scene in which Jesus rides on a donkey into Jerusalem, as in the above Biblical passages. Jesus is mocked by the high priest Caiaphas while his followers praise him as the Messiah. There is also a reprise when Jesus is sent to King Herod.
Many songs for church use bear the title "Hosanna", including songs written by New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser Ligertwood (released on the 2007 Hillsong United albums All of the Above and live on Saviour King and covered by the Canadian group Starfield on their album I Will Go); another song by Paul Baloche on his 2006 album A Greater Song; another by gospel artist Kirk Franklin, and another by Andrew Peterson on his 2008 album Resurrection Letters II. Sidney Mohede's "Hosanna (Be Lifted High)" was included on Israel Houghton's 2011 Grammy Award-winning album Love God, Love People.
A. R. Rahman composed the song "Hosanna" for the 2010 Tamil movie Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. Here the word is used as an exclamation of joy when a man sees his beloved. The Catholic Christian Secular Forum (CSF) objected to this song and asked film-makers Fox Star Studios to remove it from the final cut of the Hindi remake of the film, Ekk Deewana Tha.