Monday, April 07, 2003

Passiontide

In the traditional Roman rite, yesterday was the first Sunday in Passiontide. Parsch says that The Church now enters the period of mourning over her divine Bridegroom as she puts on her widow’s weeds. Passiontide. . . .makes the third stage in our preparation for Easter. If Pre-Lent was only an introduction and the past four weeks a time of conversion and spiritual renewal, Passiontide in a special way commemorates Christ’s suffering.

In the liturgy this finds expression in various ways. For instance, the crosses and statues in churches are draped, an outward sign of the Church’s inward sorrow. Over crosses, brilliant with precious stones and a-shimmer with gold or silver, a cloak is placed. . . while pictures and statues lose importance in the face of Christ’s suffering.

The last remaining traces of joy are eliminated – the “Gloria Patri” is omitted in the Introit, Lavabo, and Breviary responsories. The omission of Psalm 42, at the foot of the altar before Mass, is likewise interpreted as an expression of mourning, as in Requiem Masses.

It is on the first Passion Sunday that the traditional liturgy begins the use of some of the beautiful hymn, the Vexilla Regis prodeunt.

A version in English:

Forth comes the Standard of the King:
All hail, thou Mystery ador’d!
Hail, Cross! On which the Life Himself
Died, and by death our life restor’d!

On which our Saviour’s holy side
Rent upon with a cruel spear
Of blood and water poured a stream,
To wash us from defilement clear.

O sacred wood! in Thee fulfill’d
Was holy David’s truthful lay!
Which told the world, that from a tree
The Lord should all the nations sway.

Most royally empurpled o’er,
How beauteously thy stem doth shine!
How glorious was its lot to touch
Those limbs so holy and divine!

Thrice blest, upon whose arms outstretched
The Saviour of the world reclined;
Balance sublime! Upon whose beam
Was weighed the ransom of mankind.

Hail, Cross! Thou only hope of man,
Hail, on this holy Passionday!
To saints increase the grace they have;
From sinners purge their guilt away.

Salvation’s spring, blest Trinity,
Be praise to Thee through earth and skies:
Thou through the Cross the victory
Dost give; oh, also give the prize!
Amen.
[from the old St. Andrew’s Missal]