(Author’s Note: Hi, readers! Sorry, I’m falling behind. I have a tendency to get interested in something and research the heck out of it to the point of ignoring all my other projects, and that’s what I’ve been doing recently. So Passiontide actually started yesterday [Sunday, 22 March], but I’m just now getting around to posting this. Sorry for the delay!)
Von Trapp Follow-Along. Maria discusses several of the most important aspects of Passiontide under “PASSIONTIDE” in her book.
Passiontide, the final two weeks of Lent, step up the preparations for Easter. Whereas Lent focuses on Jesus’ life and ministry, Passiontide focuses on Jesus’ last week prior to His crucifixion and more specifically on His sufferings (“passion”).
Red. In the Catholic Church, which has officially abolished any commemoration of Passiontide, the color for this time period is still the Lenten violet. However, in some Catholic and Anglican churches, crimson is used in décor and vestments for the entirety of Passiontide or for the latter half of Passiontide.
The Veiled Cross. As described previously, crucifixes were once adorned not with the body of Christ but with jewels and intricate carvings. During Lent, they were veiled so as to prevent parishioners from being distracted from their penance and observance of Lent by the splendor of the crucifixes. If not veiled during Lent, they are veiled during Passiontide. The color of the veil varies from violet to crimson to black depending largely on locale and denomination. The veil is gauzy so that the outlines of the cross can still be seen, and so the cross remains as a reminder of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, but the shininess of the metal is dulled and the intricate details obscured so that the cross does not detract from penance and observance of the Lent or Passiontide period.
Passiontide encompasses the last two weeks before Easter and so includes Passion Week (which includes Passion Sunday and Friday of Sorrows) and Holy Week (which includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday).
Because Passiontide starts two weeks before and ends the day before Easter Sunday, it may start as early as 8 March and end as late as 24 April. This year, Passiontide runs from 22 March to 4 April.
Passiontide has been observed since the 200s AD (therefore older than observance of Lent but younger than observance of Easter). Although Palm Sunday was first openly observed the year Emperor Constantine declared the practice of Christianity legal via the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, Christians only began annually observing it between 600 and 1000 AD. Passion Sunday has been specifically observed as such since the 800s AD.
“The Passion” or “The Passion of Christ” refers to the final brief period of Jesus’ life (beginning with His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem approximately one week prior to His death) and specifically His sufferings in and related to His crucifixion, hence the name “Passiontide” for this commemorative period.
Passiontide includes two weeks: Passion Week and Holy Week. The first commemorates His last year of ministry while the second commemorates His last week of life (see Footnote 1). Maria Von Trapp explains, “The purpose of Passiontide is to call to our memory the persecutions of which Our Lord was the object during His public life and especially toward the end. If Septuagesima season [Pre-Lent Season] acts as a remote preparation for Easter, and Lent the proximate one, the last two weeks of Passiontide are the immediate preparation.” (Source)
During Passiontide, the crucifixes are covered with violet cloth (crimson in some churches) if this was not done on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent (see my post on that topic). In some churches, the crucifixes are re-veiled with black cloth on Maundy Thursday. The Gloria Patri is not prayed and Alleluias are not sung during these two weeks of mourning.
Passion Week. The first week of Passiontide, this week commemorates Jesus’ last year on earth. It includes Passion Sunday and Friday of Sorrows. Passion Sunday will have its own individual blog post. However, Friday of Sorrows will not; it commemorates the sorrow Jesus’ suffering and death caused His mother Mary, and was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 as a duplicate of the feast on 15 September, which is known as The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As mentioned multiple times previously, I am writing this series as an Evangelical’s study of Christian traditions, and so venerations of Mary are not appropriate to the series. I hope in the future to study some or all of the commemorations of Mary, but at this time I am focusing on those an Evangelical can celebrate. Although I don’t see anything wrong with considering or even commemorating the sorrow a mother feels or felt over the death of her child, there’s just too much to cover in this blog series at this time, so I’m generally focusing on commemorations that do not focus solely on Mary.
Holy Week. The second week of Passiontide, this week commemorates Jesus’ last week of life on earth (again, see Footnote 1). Some consider Holy Week to start with Palm Sunday, while others consider it to start on Holy Monday, leaving Palm Sunday, which commemorates His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, awkwardly sandwiched between Passion Week and Holy Week. (Some calendars consider Holy Week to start with the Friday before Good Friday). For simplicity, I consider Holy Week to start with Palm Sunday. Some calendars also recognize a separate tiny liturgical season called the Easter Triduum, which includes the evening of Maundy Thursday and all of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, in which case, Holy Week ends on Maundy Thursday. Because there is so much to discuss in the Easter Triduum, I’ve decided for bloggy reasons to use this separation and therefore will consider Holy Week to begin on Palm Sunday and end on Maundy Thursday. Palm Sunday will have its own individual blog post, but the rest of Holy Week (Holy Monday through Maundy Thursday) will be lumped together in one post and the Easter Triduum will be considered separate from Passiontide and be discussed in another individual post.
The calendar for Passiontide this year looks like this:
- 3/22-3/28: Passion Week
- 3/22: Passion Sunday
- 3/25: The Annunciation (immoveable feast)
- 3/29-4/2: Holy Week
- 3/29: Palm Sunday
- 3/30: Holy Monday
- 3/31: Holy Tuesday
- 4/1: Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday
- 4/2: Maundy Thursday
- 4/3: Good Friday
- 4/4: Holy Saturday
Footnote 1: His Last Week. Holy Week is often described as commemorating Jesus’ last week of life on earth. This simplification may be a bit of misspeak, as many simplifications are. In reality, if using the consideration of Holy Week as beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Holy Saturday, it encompasses His death and burial, including three days and nights in the tomb (which I will discuss in more detail on the appropriate days), so it does not commemorate a full week of life. Furthermore, Jesus resurrected and lived another 40 days on earth before ascending into heaven, so the final week before His resurrection, and even the final week before His death (which would correctly run from Thursday to Thursday rather than from Sunday to Saturday) cannot be correctly understood as His last week of life on earth. Therefore, this reference to Holy Week as His last week of life on earth should be understood for what it is—a simplification which, like other simplifications, is not completely correct—and viewed as a symbolic memorial based on some history rather than as a 100% historically-accurate commemoration. Of course, this is true of virtually all commemorations of any sort, but I just wanted to clear up any misconceptions gained from the commemoration.