Wednesday, March 12, 2008


(My prayer corner during Passiontide)

Passiontide is an observance that I hadn't practiced until this year. The Catholic Encylopedia states that the season of Passiontide encompasses the last two weeks of Lent, from Passion Sunday, the fifth Sunday in Lent, to the end of Good Friday or Holy Saturday Vigil. The second week of Passiontide is referred to as Holy Week, which we are more familiar with than Passiontide itself. During this time, all crosses, crucifixes, and images of Christ and His Saints are covered with an unornamented cloth of deep purple or black. I used black because I had no deep purple cloth at hand as I covered the crosses on my porch (one I covered with green as I ran out of black), the crosses just inside our front door (including the one Kitty just gave me for my birthday), my freestanding cross above my desk that I bring down with my stained glass candle for morning devotions, and my two icons plus my copy of an Old Master painting with Christ on the Cross in my upstairs prayer corner. (Perhaps I'll find some purple cloth to make neater coverings for next year....)

The Catholic Encyclopedia continues, "The crosses are veiled because Christ during this time no longer walked openly among the people, but hid himself. Hence in the papal chapel the veiling formerly took place at the words of the Gospel: 'Jesus autem abscondebat se.' Another reason is added by Durandus, namely that Christ's divinity was hidden when he arrived at the time of His suffering and death. The images of the saints also are covered because it would seem improper for the servants to appear when the Master himself is hidden."

In addition to the veiling of crosses and images, the Gloria Patri is omitted from the liturgy, and fasting is intensified. The focus of prayer is on the suffering of Christ: upon the humiliation He, the King of Kings, endured on our behalf. The lessons (Scripture readings) focus on His sufferings as well. Passiontide reminds us of the humanity of Christ and the extreme physical pain as well as spiritual pain He endured as the past, present, and future sins of the entire world were upon Him. This is the "cup" He prayed to the Lord about, asking if it could "pass by," but He concluded His prayer, "Not my will but Yours be done."

May that prayer resonate within all of us during Passiontide as we prepare our hearts for the sorrows and joys of Holy Week: Not my will but Yours be done.

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