Monday, 7 April 2014

Passiontide: A liturgical loss in the New Lectionary

Working in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite every weekend, I can appreciate more and more what went wrong after the Council. One glaring example came just yesterday. The "Ordo" for Canada referred to the tradition of "veiling" the cross and statues for the last two weeks of Lent, what is known in the Mass up to 1969, as Passiontide. Yesterday in the Ordinary Form, it is called the Fifth Sunday of Lent, whereas traditionally, it is the First Sunday of Passiontide; we are to enter more deeply into Our Lord's passion in these last days up to the Triduum.

Walking into the Toronto church where I sing the Sunday Anticipated Mass on Saturday evening, I was pleased once again to see the main crucifix, altar crucifix and every statue and picture veiled. But why? What does it mean and what is the point of it in the Ordinary Form and the new Lectionary, other than some "tradition?"

The Gospel in the Ordinary Form for Year A on the Fifth Sunday of Lent is the raising of Lazarus. In Year B, we hear from the Gospel of St. John about grain falling on good ground and in Year C, it is the woman caught in adultery. All of these are important; all are beautiful words of Our Lord, but they are not about his passion - yet we veil out of some tradition for which we know nothing.

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The First Sunday of the Passion in the traditional annual lectionary of the Roman Missal is from St. John's Gospel. He shows us the growing hatred of the Sanhedrin for Jesus. The Jews who ought to have recognised in Jesus, the Son of God, greater than Abraham and the prophets, because He is eternal, disregarded the meaning of His words. They insulted Our Blessed Lord, the Messias, whom they declared to be a possessed by a devil, a blasphemer whom they would stone to death. The Gospel concludes with "Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see My day: he saw it and was glad. The Jews therefore said to Him: Thou art not yet fifty years old: and hast Thou seen Abraham? Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. They took up stones therefore to cast at Him: but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple." The passion of Jesus by His own has begun.  

St. Augustine commented that Jesus "hid Himself" not by hiding in the crowd but by invoking His divinity and becoming invisible in their midst. However, Our Blessed Lord, hid Himself, the Church in her liturgical actions has hidden the Lord by veiling the crucifix. If the Lord is hidden, then the glory of His saints must also be hidden. 

Our liturgical action of veiling is because of this Gospel on the First Sunday of Passiontide. This is why in your parish which offers the reformed liturgy is done. Now, you know why.

This Gospel has been relegated to Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent. How long can we continue to abide this impoverishment and symbolism. 


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