Saturday 8 March 2014


I have been looking at the Propers for Passion Sunday in the Extraordinary Form: the fifth Sunday of Lent and the start of what we used to call Passiontide (remember that?)

Here is the Introit:

Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso eripe me : quia tu es Deus meus, et fortitudo mea. Emitte lucem tuam, et verita- tem tuam : ipsa me deduxerunt, et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernacula tua.

If you are at all familiar with the Traditional Mass, you will instantly recognise these verses from Psalm 42, because they are recited by the priest and server at the start of every Mass (except from Passion Sunday to Maundy Thursday).

So when one comes across them on Passion Sunday, one instantly notices that. Which means that subsequently (at least for the first few Sundays after Easter, until one forgets) at the start of each Mass we are reminded of the start of Passiontide.

That is an example of what I call resonance, and relates to what I blogged about here, regarding a symphonic analogy for liturgy. There is a richness and a depth to traditional liturgy, in the same way there is a richness and a depth to family customs and rituals around birthdays and Christmas.  The way the Mass had developed, organically, over the years led to many such felicities.

The writing of a new Mass by committee, and particularly a committee that took such a reductionist and mono linear approach, stripped all these away. They seem to have been actively hostile to popular piety, and to anything that did not conform to a rigid, and simplistic, analysis of the structure of the ideal Mass. The analogy with architecture is also relevant (cf my extended metaphor here).

Part of the problem is the three year cycle of the Lectionary. With a yearly cycle, one can get used to the Mass for Passion Sunday.  But if they change every year, and recur only every three, we don't develop that instinctive familiarity.

Another impoverishment: and we are the poorer for it.


In the interests of accuracy, I should note that the Judica me is used as the Introit for the 5th Sunday of Lent (no longer Passion Sunday, it would seem) in all three years. However, the resonance of which I speak is lost entirely, as it is no longer said at the foot of the altar at the start of Lent, and (at least according to my missal) Passiontide (along with the season of Septuagesima, qv) has been abolished.

The larger point about the three-year cycle still stands.


Patricius said...

"Another impoverishment: and we are the poorer for it."

Perhaps. The three year Sunday cycle strikes me as weird. The text is, in a sense, emhasised over the Gospel, On the other hand the richness of the weekday lectionary never ceases to impress.
Nobody ever explained how the new lectionary, as a whole, was meant to be an enrichment

Part-time Pilgrim said...

I think Passiontide still exisits. In all the parishes I have been in since age 14 (can't remember before then) images and statues have been covered from the 5th Sunday of Lent onwards. The cycle of the Daily Office also changes at that point.

Ben Trovato said...


I am not sure Passiontide still exists. They certainly seem to have merged Passion Sunday with Palm Sunday, according to my CTS Missal (Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord).

Also, the Passion Sunday Gospel (which ends ' And Jesus hid himself and left the temple' - giving a wonderful meaning and resonance [qv] to the veiling of the Crucifixes) is not proclaimed in any of the three years on that day.

The Calendar put out by the Bishops' liturgy office makes no mention of it (

I fear that the veiling of statues is merely a relic of better days. I expect some bishop to admonish us for it any day now.

Marc in Eugene said...

As Father Zuhlsdorf has pointed out, the General Instruction stipulates,

Usus cooperiendi cruces et imagines per ecclesiam ab hac dominica servari potest, de iudicio Conferentiae Episcoporum. Cruces velatae remanent usque ad expletam celebrationem Passionis Domini, feria VI Hebdomadae sanctae, imagines vero usque ad initium Vigiliae paschalis.

Don't know the right number of the Instituto generalis and cannot find it online at the moment... anyway, in the US, we do, or are permitted to do on a diocese by diocese basis (I don't know; here in Portland in Oregon, we do); perhaps the EW bishops decided otherwise.