This blog contains regular postings relating to the Traditional Latin Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It includes regular commentary on the saints days and the liturgical cycle, with brief background and extracts from the liturgy both in Latin and English. Much of the material has been extracted from the 'St Andrew's Daily Missal', Dom Gueranger's 'Liturgical Year', or similar sources.

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Sunday 22 March 2015

Passiontide - Doctrinal Note

From the St Andrew's Daily Missal

The Church, since the beginning of the Easter Cycle, has followed our Lord in His apostolic ministry. Throughout Passiontide, clad in mourning, she contemplates the sorrowful happenings of the last year (Passion week) and the last week (Holy week) of His mortal life.

The hatred of Christ's enemies grows day by day. It is about to break out and on Good Friday we shall be reminded of the most frightful of all crimes, the bloody drama of Calvary, foretold by the prophets and by our Lord Himself. The liturgy, too, taking into account both the Old and New Testaments, works out a striking parallel between the teaching of St. Paul and the Evangelists about our Lord's Passion and the clear prophecies of Jeremias, Isaias, David, Jonas and Daniel.

As the fatal end approaches the Church's accents of grief become more and more penetrated with feeling and soon we shall hear her lamentations for her spouse whom she has lost. "The sky of Holy Church becomes more and more overcast," says Dom Gueranger. As when thunder threatens, we see gather on the horizon clouds presaging disaster and charged with storm. The thunderbolt of divine Justice is about to fall and it will strike the Redeemer who has become man for love of His Father and for us. By reason of the mysterious solidarity existing between all the members of the great human family, He offers Himself as a substitute for His guilty brethren. As the prophet says: " He clothes Himself with our sins as with a garment," and He was "made sin for us" (2 Cor, 5:21) that He might bear our sins in His body upon the tree (1 St. Peter 2:24) and destroy it by His death. In the Garden of Gethsemane the sins of every age and of all mankind flowed horrible and repulsive into the most pure soul of Jesus who thus became, "the receptacle of the moral filth of the world". Further, His Father doing violence to the love He bore Him is to treat Him as a being accursed, according to the scripture: "Cursed is He that hangeth upon a tree." (Galatians 2:13).

For "the work of our redemption required " that our Lord should be set as the salvation of the world upon the cross, so that "whence came death, thence might life be restored, and that he who overcame by a tree, might also on a tree be overcome". It is an unequal struggle between the Prince of life and that of death, but Christ triumphs in the very act of His self-immolation. Already on Palm Sunday He advances like a conqueror, sure of Himself, greeted with acclamations and already crowned with palms and laurels "tokens of the victory which He is about to win." "Rejoice, daughter of Sion ... behold thy King will come to thee," cries Zacharias, and as if in fulfilment of his words the crowd spread their garments in our Lord's path, as is the custom before kings, while men cry aloud: "Blessed be the King who cometh in the name of the Lord". (St. Luke 19:38).

Jesus enters His capital Jerusalem, and mounts the costly throne which His Blood "adorns with royal purple", over which Jews and Romans write in the three principal languages of the time, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews". David's prophecy is accomplished; God is reigning from the tree, which from being an object of shame becomes a "standard of the King," and our "only hope" on this "holy Passion day". "We adore Thy Cross, O Lord ... for behold, by the wood of the Cross, joy came into the whole world." It was to show clearly how, from this point of view, the Church regards our Lord upon the cross, that in days gone by Christian artists changed His crown of thorns into an heraldic and royal one.

It was at the end of Lent, when the Church makes remembrance of the death and triumph of Christ, that the ancient councils required that the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist should be given to the catechumens and that public penitents should be reconciled by sacramental absolution. In a sense these catechumens were "buried together" with Christ by baptism into death and rose with Him into newness of life (Rom. 6:4). So do Passiontide and Easter,by marking for all Christians the anniversary of the reception of those blessings, remind them that our Lord's Passion and Resurrection were at once the efficient cause and the pattern of their own, and help them as the years pass, to share in these sacred mysteries in an ever more full and intimate way.

These feasts are not, then, a mere commemoration, concerned only with our Lord Himself; they become a reality for His whole mystical body. The conflict of Calvary extended to the whole world, where with Christ her Head, the Church gained a new victory over Satan every year at the Easter Feast.

The purpose of Passiontide through its close connection with Easter, is to recall to us the memory of our Baptism, when our souls were washed in our Lord's Blood, and of our First Communion when they drank of its healing stream . By the Easter Communion and Confession, survivals of the ancient discipline connected with Baptism and Penance, we are led at this liturgical season to die and rise again once more with Christ. (The Fathers tell us that from our Lord's open side "there came out blood and water" (St. John 19:34), symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist.)

Note: The St Andrew's Daily Missal, 1945 edition - probably the best Latin-English handmissal ever - has been reprinted by St Bonaventure Press. Every traditional Catholic home should have one!

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