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Welcome to Passiontide

During Lent, we seek the Lord in prayer by reading Sacred Scripture; we serve by giving alms; and we practice self-control through fasting. We are called not only to abstain from luxuries during Lent, but to a true inner conversion of heart as we seek to follow Christ’s will more faithfully.

Passiontide is a name for the last two weeks of Lent, beginning on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, long celebrated as Passion Sunday, and continuing through Lazarus Saturday. It commemorates the suffering of Christ. The second week of Passiontide is Holy Week, ending on Holy Saturday

Prior to the 1970 revision of the Roman Missal (Sacramentary), crosses and images were covered with veils during Passiontide

From this Sunday, traditionally called 1st Sunday of the Passion, it is customary to veil images in churches. According to Father John Zulhlsdorf (Father Z)  in the Gospel in traditional Form of the Roman Rite we hear:

They therefore took up stones to cast at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out from the temple.

So yesterday, the Church traditionally started yon hide the Lord and other images with veils, usually purple.

Father Z says “This is a fine old tradition. It has to do with deprivation of the senses and the liturgical dying of the Church in preparation for the Lord’s tomb and resurrection. We do this to sense something of the humiliation of the Lord as he enters His Passion, something of His interior suffering.

According to Fr Thomas Nathe, It used to be that two Sundays before Easter (5th Sunday of Lent), the Gospel reading was about Jesus confronting the established powers with his divinity; this caused those in authority to pick up rocks to stone him, “but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (Jn 8:46-59). Jesus would stay hidden from the religious authorities until his triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday); yet even then, he did not give anyone a chance to seize him until he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The veiling of Jesus “hides” him from us during the time when the plot to kill him is afoot. Meanwhile, Jesus conceals himself until his appointed time.

Seeing the images in church covered up gives us a sense of disquiet and dread. Something is clearly different, yet it’s more than that; something is wrong. We know it as soon as we see those images all covered up. The last two weeks of Lent place us in the midst of this drama and imparts to us a sense of horror of what is happening, and shame; shame in knowing that man is going to torture his creator to death, and that somehow our sins are partially to blame. The veiling of the images focuses our attention more so than usual on Our Lord and his Paschal Mystery (his passion, death, and resurrection).

Father Z says “we lose things during Lent. We are being pruned through the liturgy. Holy Church experiences liturgical death before the feast of the Resurrection (Easter). On the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday) until the Easter Vigil, liturgical music is pared back and we lose the Alleluia, Gloria, and flowers. On the 5th Sunday of Lent, crosses, images of Jesus, angels, and saints are covered with purple cloth. In the traditional Latin Mass, the “Iudica” psalm in the prayers at the foot of the altar, and the Lord’s Prayer at the end of certain prayers, are no longer said.”

Adding “the pruning cuts more deeply as we march into the Triduum. After the Mass on Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the sanctuary, which is stripped and its bells removed. On Good Friday there isn’t even Mass (the one day of the year there isn’t). At the beginning of the Easter Vigil we are deprived of light itself! It is as if the Church herself were completely dead with the Lord in His tomb. This liturgical death of the Church reveals how Christ emptied Himself of His glory in order to save us from our sins and to teach us who we are”

The Church then gloriously springs to life again at the Vigil of Easter. In ancient times, the Vigil was celebrated in the depth of night. In the darkness, a single spark would be struck from flint and ignited into flame, the flame 

According  to Father Nathe “over the next two weeks, strive to connect yourself in heart and mind with the Church’s liturgy in which these sacred mysteries are re-presented; then by your active receptivity, become a participant in the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

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