BOOK 6, CHAPTER 60
OF THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT,
 OR THE SUNDAY OF THE PASSION

1. Then follows the Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, or of the Cross. Now, the Sunday of the Passion begins at the end of Saturday, that is to say at the Vespers which precede the day of this Sunday, because, Lazarus having been resurrected on the preceding Friday, several, having departed from Bethany, went to the Pharisees and told them of this miracle.

2. Now as this Friday was the hystomeria, that is, the first day of the month, and a large number of Jews, high priests and Pharisees had gathered for the celebration of that day. Having soon learning of this miracle, on the Sabbath day, as St John says, they gathered to hold counsel against Jesus, and from that day they thought only of finding a way to kill Him. From then on Jesus no longer showed Himself publicly to the Jews because His time had not yet come. That is why, at Vespers on Saturday, and as after the hour of the council held by the Jews, the Church, compassionate to the pains of her Lord, begins her public mourning, so that the members suffer with the Head. From that time, while groaning, she speaks only of the standard of her King, the mystery of the Cross, the vinegar, the gall, the reed, the nails, the spear which pierced the sacred side of the Saviour, the day of the Passion of Christ, the causes of His sufferings, the mockery of His enemies, and their pitfalls. At Vespers and at the Night Offices, she fills the air with these and similar wailings, which she draws from the authentic writings of the Old and New Testaments. Moreover, as all men have been redeemed by the Lord’s Passion, it is with good reason that this Passion begins on this Sunday, preceded by the regular group of seven Sundays which, as we have said above, represent the seven ages of the world. Indeed, these seven Sundays are like a long funeral procession behind which finally follows the Victim of our salvation, exposing to all eyes the wounds He bore for us and the bloody device of His death.

3. The Church also sings the ‘The Royal Banner forward goes, etc.,’[1] so that if by chance some of the faithful fell, they surrender to this standard which gives sweetness and flavour to all bitterness, and which has been figured by the wood thrown into the waters of Marath.[2] For always, but especially at this time, we must have engraved in our minds the recollection of the Passion of the Lord. So it is said in the Song of Songs, ‘A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts,’[3] because the memory of the Lord’s Passion does not suffer with Him without the bitterness of sin. That is why, during the two weeks before Easter, the spiritual remembrance of the Lord’s Passion is recalled. Firstly, because Christ himself was tormented by two peoples and suffered for two peoples. Secondly, because these two weeks designate the two Testaments. The Old, which predicted the sufferings of the Lord, and the New, which tells us of these same sufferings. Thirdly, because the Passion was prophesied for two ages of the world, that is, before the law and during the law. Fourthly, so that these two weeks remind us of the complaints of the men who lived in limbo before and during the law, until the time of grace, which is designated by the third week, that is, Easter week. Because from this day, when the Gloria Patri, ‘Glory be to the Father, etc.,’ is suppressed, until Easter there are two weeks. Then begins the third week, where all the suppressed doxologies reappear, for in the third age, which is the time of grace, the Church enters into the enjoyment of all the blessings which were promised to our fathers and which our fathers waited for.

4. The Gloria Patri is suppressed, because this verse relates to the praise of the Trinity, which was covered with disgrace during the Lord’s Passion, which we begin to represent from this day forward. For it is certain that Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, was watered with insults and dishonoured. However, at the Resurrection the Gloria Patri is resumed, because the Resurrection covered Him with immortal glory. This humiliation, an attestation of the humiliations of Christ, protest against His glory and consisted chiefly in the Crucifixion; from which one can say that the Gloria Patri, is then suppressed, because of the humility with which one must pass to reach Calvary or the Passion of Christ, and because the Lord hid. It should be noted that the doxology is suppressed in the Introit and responsories because they relate to the Passion. It is the same for the ‘Come let us praise the Lord, etc.;’[4] but in psalms and hymns it is not suppressed, because the psalm designates the works or the operation; for the Jews persecuted Christ only by their invectives and by threatening Him with death, and He Himself did not cease to do good works. It is not suppressed in its totality, and one must bring only a softening of mourning and sorrow, because the Lamb was not delivered into the hands of the ungodly immediately after advice was sought to seek the means to destroy Him. However during the three days preceding Easter it is entirely suppressed, because it was especially then that the Holy Trinity was covered with opprobrium. For although the death of the Lord had been spoken of before these days, it was then that He was smitten, jeered at, slain, and crucified. As Isaiah said, ‘he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him,’[5] because then we celebrate the burial of the Lord, which was His greatest humiliation. It is also from this Sunday, in some churches, that at Prime we stop saying ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, etc.,’[6] because then the Church represents His death and His Passion as, according to the appreciation of the Jews, He could not have pity on others, since He could not save Himself. We talked about this in Book Five, in the chapter, Of Prime.

5. There is no spiritual remembrance of the saints, nor of peace, from this Sunday to the Saturday after Pentecost, although ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints,’[7] is said after Lauds. At Prime, we say the oration, ‘Lord God Almighty, Thou hast brought us safely to the beginning of this day, etc.’[8] It is in these two orations that we make a general remembrance of the saints. On this subject, it is good to know that it is customary to remember the saints for two reasons, that is, to recall the merits of their holiness and to obtain their patronage, which is so salutary for us. These two points are especially proposed to our meditation in the person of Christ, our Leader, in the time of His Passion and His Resurrection, because first, at the time of His Passion, He gave us the most magnificent example of humility and holiness. After His Resurrection in the bosom of His Father, He became, as Saint John testifies, our special advocate and defender close to His heavenly Father.[9] Now, so that all our attention, during this time, is mainly on this model of holiness, and so that we raise our vows and our hope towards Him alone, as towards our refuge and unique and special defender, that is why we suppress then, and with much reason, the special suffrages of the saints. From this also arises that some churches omit, at the end of Prime, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, etc.,’[10] They begin at, ‘O God, come to my assistance; etc.,’[11] and in the prayer, ‘O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, everlasting God, etc.,’[12] which is said at Prime, they suppress these words, ‘By the intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints.’ Now, those who say, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord, etc.,’ claim that it is not an Hour, nor a fraction of a Canonical Hour, as was said in the Book Five, in the chapter, Of Prime.

6. Now, we make a kind of remembrance of the saints in general in the Church, as, because of their great number and our weakness, we cannot celebrate, according to their merits, the memory of each one in particular, as we should. From this it is apparent why we omit a commemoration of peace, it is because, as the Apostle tells the Colossians, ‘And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven,’[13] and after His Resurrection He announced His peace to His disciples. Moreover, He himself, who is our peace, lived continually with His disciples until His Ascension, and also He gave them His peace, saying to them, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.’[14] Again, it is on the day of Pentecost that He has deigned to send the Comforter. It would be superfluous and useless to remember peace.

7. The Introit of Passion Sunday begins with the prayer to the Lord, ‘Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause, etc.,’[15] which is how the Lord taught us to pray by His example. Then follows, ‘O send out thy light,’ because whoever sees the reward becomes brave in the fight; ‘and thy truth,’ for he who sees the true things is easily led to the eternal tabernacles. It is of the fourth tone, because of the form of the cross, and because of the four things that are asked for, that is, judgment or justice, separation from the ungodly, deliverance and courage.

8. The Epistle, ‘But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, etc.,[16] shows the efficacy of the Passion of Christ; for it is His passion that leads us to the eternal tabernacles, and we must be grateful for them. However, as all will not enter there, and only those who will enter it will do so, which is why there then follows the responsory, ‘Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, etc.,’[17] Otherwise one does not enter the Holy of Holies. It is of the third tone, because of our deliverance from three kinds of enemies by virtue of the Trinity. Afterwards follows the Trait, where the Lord complains of His enemies, saying, ‘Often have they fought against me from my youth, etc.,’[18] in the person of Abel and others. Now the Trait is said with much truth, for these enemies, that is, the Apollophiles and the Philistines, render our lives hard and miserable. It is of the eighth tone, to point out that these kinds of tribulations come to us so that we remember the other life, which will be in the eighth age, because of these words of the Psalmist, ‘In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.’[19]

9. Afterwards follows the Gospel, ‘Which of you convinceth me of sin, etc.,’[20] which recounts the insults of the Jews, who said to the Lord, ‘Now we know that thou hast a devil,’ and the Lord, it is said, hid Himself to wait for the time of the immolation of the Lamb, and He showed Himself towards the tenth moon, as He said it was done for the Lamb, as well as we see it in Exodus.[21]  The Church poses as an opponent of the Jews in the Offertory, as if she said, ‘These Jews say that you are possessed of the devil, but I will praise you, Lord, etc.’ It is of the first tone, because one must praise only God alone. The Post Communion is, ‘This is my body, etc.’[22] It is the priest who sings it to show that the high priest has changed the old sacrifice to the new sacrifice. It is of the eighth tone, because this sacrifice is the true sacrifice, and will be perfect in paradise, when we will be resurrected, then this word of the Apostle will be fulfilled, ‘For all are yours.’[23]

 

 

[1] A Latin hymn by Saint Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers, c. 530 – c. 600/609

[2] See Exodus 15:23-25

[3] Song of Songs 1:13

[4] Psalm 95:1,2

[5] Isaiah 53:2

[6] Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who according to the will of the Father, with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, hast by Thy death given life unto the world, deliver me by Thy most sacred Body, which, I, unworthy, have presumed to receive, from all my iniquities and from every evil, and make me ever to hold fast to Thy commandments and suffer me never to be separated from Thee. Amen

[7] Psalm 116:15

[8] Lord God Almighty, Thou hast brought us safely to the beginning of this day. Defend us today by Thy mighty power, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our words may so proceed and all our thoughts and actions be so directed, as to be always just in Thy sight

[9] See 1 John 2:1

[10] Psalm 116:15; 34:18

[11] Psalm 70:1

[12] This prayer various in form in different rites and at different times of the year

[13] Colossians 1:20

[14] John 14:27

[15] Psalm 43:1-3

[16] Hebrews 9:11-15

[17] Psalm 143:9-10; 18:47-48

[18] Psalm 129:1-4

[19] Psalm 120:1

[20] John 8:46-59

[21] See Exodus 29:39-46

[22] 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25

[23] 1 Corinthians 3:22

RATIONALE DIVINORUM OFFICIORUM

I INVITE YOU ON A JOURNEY

UNDERSTANDING THE RATIONALE AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE

BOOK IV  CHAPTER 10, THE CELEBRANT INCENSES THE ALTAR

FULL LIST OF CHAPTER TITLES