The two weeks of Passiontide begin today, the first week
being known as "Passion Week," and the second week being known as "Holy
This day -- Passion Sunday -- memorializes the increasing antipathy
against Christ from the Jews who would not accept Him and accused Him
of sorcery and of being blasphemous and possessed by a devil. From
today until Maundy Thursday, the Júdica me and the Glória
patris at the Introit and Lavabo are omitted from Masses of the
Season (not Sundays and Feasts).
Today (unless this has already taken place on Ash Wednesday, as it is
in some churches), statues and sacred images (except for the Stations
of the Cross) are veiled with purple cloth beginning at the Vespers of
Passion Sunday, and they remain covered until the Gloria of Holy
Saturday, at which point Lent ends and Eastertide begins. Catholics
cover statues and icons, etc., in their homes for the same time period
(the cloth shouldn't be transluscent or decorated in any way).
This veiling of the statues and icons stems from the Gospel reading of
Passion Sunday (John 8:46-59), at the end of which the Jews take up
stones to cast at Jesus, Who hides Himself away. The veiling also
symbolizes the fact that Christ's Divinity was hidden at the time of
His Passion and death, the very essence of Passiontide.
At the Vespers Mass on Holy Saturday, Lent ends and Easter
begins: the statues are unveiled at that time in one of the most
glorious liturgical moments of the entire Church year, a moment that
affirms His divinity and proclaims that "He is risen!"
of Passiontide and Holy Week"
from Dom Gueranger's "The Liturgical Year"
The holy liturgy
is rich in mystery during these days of the Church's celebrating the
anniversaries of so many wonderful events; but as the principal part of
these mysteries is embodied in the rites and ceremonies of the
respective days, we shall give our explanations according as the
occasion presents itself. Our object in the present chapter, is to say
a few words respecting the general character of the mysteries of these
We have nothing to add to the explanation, already given in our Lent,
on the mystery of forty. The holy season of expiation continues its
course until the fast of sinful man has imitated, in its duration, that
observed by the Man-God in the desert. The army of Christ's faithful
children is still fighting against the invisible enemies of man's
salvation; they are still vested in their spiritual armour, and, aided
by the angels of light, they are struggling hand to hand with the
spirits of darkness, by compunction of heart and by mortification of
As we have already observed, there are three objects which principally
engage the thoughts of the Church during Lent. The Passion of our
Redeemer, which we have felt to be coming nearer to us each week; the
preparation of the catechumens for Baptism, which is to be administered
to them on Easter eve; the reconciliation of the public penitents, who
are to be readmitted into the Church on the Thursday, the day of the
Last Supper. Each of these three object engages more and more the
attention of the Church, the nearer she approaches the time of their
The miracle performed by our Savior almost at the very gates of
Jerusalem, by which He restored Lazarus to life, has roused the fury of
His enemies to the highest pitch of frenzy. The people's enthusiasm has
been excited by seeing him, who had been four days in the grave,
walking in the streets of their city. They ask each other if the
Messias, when He comes, can work greater wonders than these done by
Jesus, and whether they ought not at once to receive this Jesus as the
Messias, and sing their Hosanna to Him, for He is the Son of David.
They cannot contain their feelings: Jesus enters Jerusalem, and they
welcome Him as their King. The high priests and princes of the people
are alarmed at this demonstration of feeling; they have no time to
lose; they are resolved to destroy Jesus. We are going to assist at
their impious conspiracy: the Blood of the just Man is to be sold, and
the price put on it is thirty silver pieces. The divine Victim,
betrayed by one of His disciples, is to be judged, condemned, and
crucified. Every circumstance of this awful tragedy is to be put before
us by the liturgy, not merely in words, but with all the expressiveness
of a sublime ceremonial.
The catechumens have but a few more days to wait for the fount that is
to give them life. Each day their instruction becomes fuller; the
figures of the old Law are being explained to them; and very little now
remains for them to learn with regard to the mysteries of salvation.
The Symbol of faith is soon to be delivered to them. Initiated into the
glories and the humiliations of the Redeemer, they will await with the
faithful the moment of His glorious Resurrection; and we shall
accompany them with our prayers and hymns at that solemn hour, when,
leaving the defilements of sin in the life-giving waters of the font,
they shall come forth pure and radiant with innocence, be enriched with
the gifts of the holy Spirit, and be fed with the divine flesh of the
Lamb that liveth for ever.
The reconciliation of the penitents, too, is close at hand. Clothed in
sackcloth and ashes, they are continuing their work of expiation. The
Church has still several passages from the saved Scriptures to read to
them, which, like those we have already heard during the last few
weeks, will breathe consolation and refreshment to their souls. The
near approach of the day when the Lamb is to be slain increases their
hope, for they know that the Blood of this Lamb is of infinite worth,
and can take away the sins of the whole world. Before the day of Jesus'
Resurrection, they will have recovered their lost innocence; their
pardon will come in time to enable them, like the penitent prodigal, to
join in the great Banquet of that Thursday, when Jesus will say to His
guests: ' With desire have I desired to eat this Pasch with you before
Such are the sublime subjects which are about to be brought before us:
but, at the same time, we shall see our holy mother the Church
mourning, like a disconsolate widow, and sad beyond all human grief
Hitherto she has been weeping over the sins of her children; now she
bewails the death of her divine Spouse. The joyous Alleluia has long
since been hushed in her canticles; she is now going to suppress
another expression, which seems too glad for a time line the present.
Partially, at first, but entirely during the last three days, she is
about to deny herself the use of that formula, which is so dear to her:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. There is
an accent of jubilation in these words, which would ill suit her grief
and the mournfulness of the rest of her chants.
Her lessons, for the night Office, are taken from Jeremias, the prophet
of lamentation above all others. The colour of her vestments is the one
she had on when she assembled us at the commencement of Lent to
sprinkle us with ashes; but when the dreaded day of Good Friday comes,
purple would not sufficiently express the depth of her grief; she will
clothe herself in black, as men do when mourning the death of a
fellow-mortal; for Jesus, her Spouse, is to be put to death on that
day: the sins of mankind and the rigours of the divine justice are then
to weigh him down, and in all the realities of a last agony, He is to
yield up His Soul to His Father.
The presentiment of that awful hour leads the afflicted mother to veil
the image of her Jesus: the gross is hidden from the eyes of the
faithful. The statues of the saints, too, are covered; for it is but
just that, if the glory of the Master be eclipsed, the servant should
not appear. The interpreters of the liturgy tell us that this ceremony
of veiling the crucifix during Passiontide, expresses the humiliation
to which our Savior subjected Himself, of hiding Himself when the Jews
threatened to stone Him, as is related in the Gospel of Passion Sunday.
The Church begins this solemn rite with the Vespers of the Saturday
before Passion Sunday. Thus it is that, in those years when the feast
of our Lady's Annunciation falls in Passion-week, the statue of Mary,
the Mother of God, remains veiled, even on that very day when the
Archangel greets her as being full of grace, and blessed among women.