The Fifth Sunday of Lent is known as “Passion Sunday” and it marks the starting of a special sub-season called Passiontide, which stretches up until Holy Saturday.
During this time the liturgy of the Church becomes more somber and a sorrowful mood is always reflected in the various practices that occurs in the liturgy.
The most obvious example of a more somber mood is always the veiling of statues and images, which still remain an optional practice in the current Roman Missal: “In the Dioceses of the United States, the practice of covering crosses and images throughout the whole church from the fifth Sunday of Lent may be observed.
Crosses would remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, but images would remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.”
Initially, it was also on the Friday of this Passion Week that the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary was celebrated though, it is now fixed annually on September 15.
However, the current Roman Missal still provides an alternative prayer for that day which is the Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent, remembering Mary’s own bitter passion.
“O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace”.
Palm Sunday is the Second Sunday in Passiontide, and is currently listed in the liturgical calendar as “Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.”
The Passion narrative is read on this day, and it is the longest Sunday Gospel reading of the entire year. The Church calls us on Palm Sunday to look toward the cross and see the immense love Christ for us, sacrificing himself for our sins.
Therefore it is a preview of what is to come on Good Friday.
After Palm Sunday, Passion Week creates a way for Holy Week and the Church follows Jesus during his final days in Jerusalem. The Passion narrative was traditionally said during Mass on each day of Holy Week starting from Holy Thursday.
The Wednesday of the Holy week is known as “Spy Wednesday” and it signifies the day on which Judas betrayed Jesus and informed the Sanhedrin of his plan.
Passiontide is supposed to be a special penitential period where we focus on the bitter passion of Jesus and foster within ourselves sorrow for our sins.
The good news is that Passiontide does not have the last say, but it brings this somber period of preparation to an end so that our hearts can rejoice in the beauty of the resurrection of Christ.