Passion Sunday

In many churches, the statues and crosses are veiled in violet as from Passion Sunday, or the fifth Sunday of Lent. My chapel goes into Lenten Array just before Ash Wednesday and the images are veiled in off-white trimmed with black and red. The Lenten Season is austere, and this is reflected in Lenten Array, because it is a time of fasting and preparation. Thus, here nothing visibly changes between the first four and a half weeks of Lent and Passiontide extending between now and the Paschal Vigil. The liturgy instructs us to cease saying the Gloria Patri at the Office of the Mass (Introit).

The Gospel of today is striking, because we are brought to what the Passion of Christ is all about – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am”. The Son of God is consubstantial with the Father, God of God, light of Light, very God of very God – as we say in our Creed. To those who did not believe or understand Christ’s testimony of his divinity, such words would seem like blasphemy.

I think about these texts the liturgy gives us to meditate and a clear picture emerges. Jesus is either a madman and a rebel, or truly the Son of God. The figure of Christ is too logic-defying to be an invention. It truly took faith for the Apostles and disciples to follow him against the entire established Jewish religion. We should not forget that those who persecuted Jesus were not willingly evil, but men who were convinced they were punishing a sinner in the name of the honour of the true God.

We go into Passiontide and we will be face to face with this Mystery of Christ who defies all to enter the Holy of Holies, priest and victim, and Saviour.

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1 Response to Passion Sunday

  1. Stephen K says:

    Yes, Father Chadwick, you rightly, in my view, refer to the ‘mystery of Christ’. And to say it must have taken a lot of faith for the apostles to follow Jesus and his Way. But it may not be so simple as to say Jesus was either “madman or rebel” or the “son of God”. He could have been both. Indeed, one of the problems is that the history of Christian theology – and practice – appears to be one of having to lurch from one side to another, from the human to the divine, and back again, in the attempt to grasp the elusive concept of “The” Incarnation. Karen Armstrong (in her book “The Case For God”, I think) said, when describing the difficulties the doctrine of the Trinity led to, that most Christians equated God with the Father and thought of Jesus as a kind of divine friend. This is a kind of Arianism and to some degree I think her observation is not too far off the mark. On the other hand I think myself that the way a lot of traditionalist Christians talk the Jesus of their faith is quite docetic and not human at all. I think the challenge is to keep reminding oneself that religious truths are mysteries not provable facts and that the best argument, expression of faith, or testimony to it, is compassion for the weak and the rooting out of malice within oneself.

    By the way, in our church, we do not have violet coverings for the statues during Passiontide because we don’t actually have any. But that is something I intend to remedy for the future.

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