In the 1962 Missale Romanum, the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite, this is First Passion Sunday. In the Novus Ordo we also call Palm Sunday “Passion” Sunday. Today is the beginning of “Passiontide”. It is known as Iudica Sunday, from the first word of the Introit of Mass, from Ps 42 (41).
We lose things during Lent. We are being pruned through the liturgy. Holy Church experiences liturgical death before the feast of the Resurrection. The Alleluia goes on Septuagesima. Music and flowers go on Ash Wednesday. Today, statues and images are draped in purple. That is why today is sometimes called Repus Sunday, from repositus analogous to absconditus or “hidden”, because this is the day when Crosses and other images in churches are veiled. The universal Church’s Ordo published by the Holy See has an indication that images can be veiled from this Sunday, the 5th of Lent. Traditionally Crosses may be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and images, such as statues may be covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. At my home parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN, the large statue of the Pietà is appropriately unveiled at the Good Friday service.
Also, as part of the pruning, as of today in the older form of Mass, the “Iudica” psalm in prayers at the foot of the altar and the Gloria Patri at the end of certain prayers was no longer said.
The pruning cuts more deeply as we march into the Triduum. After the Mass on Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the main altar, which itself is stripped and bells are replaced with wooden noise makers. On Good Friday there isn’t even a Mass. At the beginning of the Vigil we are deprived of light itself! It is as if the Church herself were completely dead with the Lord in His tomb. This liturgical death of the Church reveals how Christ emptied Himself of His glory in order to save us from our sins and to teach us who we are.
The Church then gloriously springs to life again at the Vigil of Easter. In ancient times, the Vigil was celebrated in the depth of night. In the darkness a single spark would be struck from flint and spread into the flames. The flames spread through the whole Church.
If we can connect ourselves in heart and mind with the Church’s liturgy in which these sacred mysteries are re-presented, then by our active receptivity we become participants in the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. To begin this active receptivity we must be baptized members of the Church and be in the state of grace.
Let’s move to our prayers. In ancient times in Rome there would have been kept a vigil on Saturday night at the Station, St. Peter’s, in preparation for ordinations. So, priesthood brings us conceptually into this Mass, together with the impending suffering, or “Passion” of the Lord.
COLLECT (1962 Missale Romanum):
Quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
familiam tuam propitius respice:
ut, te largiente, regatur in corpore;
et, te servante, custodiatur in mente.
I like the nice repetition of the open “e” sound as well as the parallelism in the last two lines. This is a delight to sing. There is an ablative absolute, followed by a passive, followed by a prepositional phrase with in. This prayer, as all the prayers for this Sunday, are from the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary. They are classic Roman orations. Dense. Terse.
Our densely printed Lewis & Short Dictionary shows that the deponent largior means “to give bountifully, to lavish, bestow, dispense, distribute, impart.” Rego is “to keep straight or from going wrong, to lead straight; to guide, conduct, direct” and thus it is “to guide” in the sense of “to govern” and “to guide into the right way one who has erred; to set right, correct”. Servo is “to save, deliver, keep unharmed, preserve, protect” and the similar custodio is “to watch, protect, keep, defend, guard”.
We entreat You, O God Almighty,
to regard Your family graciously:
so that, as you are lavishing favor upon it, it may be rightly guided in body;
and, as You are safeguarding it, it may be protected in mind.
This sets the tone for many of the Mass texts: we need the protection only God can provide. In this life we are continuously challenged in our whole being, bodily and spiritually. This is especially the case for the priests of Holy Church. The Epistle is St. Paul’s teaching to the Hebrews about Christ as the High Priest who shed His own Blood as He went into the Holy of Holies for us to obtain what we need.
Haec munera, quaesumus, Domine,
et vincula nostrae pravitatis absolvent,
et tuae nobis misericordiae dona concilient.
You will instantly know that absolvo means “to loosen from; to set free; to acquit”. Concilio with an accusative and dative construction is “to purchase, acquire, win, gain”.
May these gifts, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
both loose the chains of our depravity,
and win for us the gifts of Thy mercy.
There is something crisp, clean and refreshing about this prayer and its direct acknowledgement of our sinful state rarely found in prayers of the Novus Ordo.
The Preface is of the Holy Cross and the Communion antiphon sings of the Body of the Lord, delivered for us, His Blood the chalice of the New Covenant which we should receive “in commemoration” of Christ.
Adesto nobis, Domine Deus noster:
et quos tuis mysteriis recreasti,
perpetuis defende subsidiis.
Roman Catholic Daily Missal (Angelus Press):
Stand by us, O Lord our god,
and with tireless support defend us
whom Thou hast renewed through these mysteries.
Again, we find the theme of protection, now closely tied together with the Eucharistic species.
It may be today that when we enter into Passiontide, we become very much involved with the historic event of the Lord’s entrance in Jerusalem, His suffering and his death. And it is right to do this. In the ancient Church, Christians did this as well, but they were perhaps somewhat more focused on the effects of the historic events.
As we march into Passiontide, keep close in your thoughts the wonderful thing our Lord accomplished for us. He has offered us freedom from the bonds of our sins and opened the way to heaven.