The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Sunday 21 March 2021
Christopher Hartley reads the Collect, Epistle and Gospel for the day. These are followed by the organ playing the tune for the hymn below. Do sing along! The Reverend Dr Michael Hull’s Reflection follows.
1 When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
2 Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
3 See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
4 Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Dr Michael Hull writes:
Today is the Fifth Sunday in Lent. It is called ‘Passion Sunday’ because it marks an intensification in Lent as we draw nearer to Holy Week, which commences on what the Prayer Book calls ‘the Sunday next before Easter’ or ‘Palm Sunday’. God willing, we shall gather together on Palm Sunday in our beloved St Vincent’s Chapel, now the Government restrictions have eased.
Passion Sunday begins Passiontide, and the Prayer Book provides six special collects for use from Passion Sunday to Good Friday. The singing of the Gloria is omitted in Passiontide to mark the muted solemnity of the fortnight. Interestingly, the Passion Narrative (Matthew 27.1–54) is read at the Communion Office on Palm Sunday, not on Passion Sunday, when we read John 8.46–59. This sometimes causes people to confuse the two Sundays and also to assume mistakenly that Passiontide begins a week later than it does.
Reckoning the Passion of the Lord as starting two weeks before Easter Day goes at least as far back as the sixth century. It is from today that all crucifixes and images may be covered in veils of violet, that is the traditional colour of Lent, though red is sometimes used, until after Good Friday and Easter Eve. The veiling is associated with Passion Sunday’s reading of John’s Gospel wherein Jesus hides himself from the people because of their desire to stone him. The dialogue with the people, which precedes Jesus’ hiding, finds Him using language similar to that of the first chapter of John’s Gospel, namely that Jesus is the pre-existent Word of God, the Logos. At this point in the liturgical year, the crosses are veiled because Jesus no longer walks openly among the people but hides Himself. Likewise, His divinity is hidden during His suffering and death.
The images of the saints are correspondingly veiled because it is unseemly for servants to be seen when their Lord is hidden. In that sense, the veiling is also associated with the Church being in mourning, in sorrow, not because we are unmindful of the Resurrection and Easter Day, but because we are on the via dolorosa, the ‘sorrowful way’, that leads to the Cross.
Passiontide will be especially meaningful for us this year as our beloved St Vincent’s, like so many other churches, will be open after all the privations of the pandemic. We shall surely rejoice in gathering onsite on Palm Sunday to worship God in song and in Sacrament. There is, indeed, an opportunity in the Covid-19 desert to share in the sorrows of the Passion as the Lord is hidden from us insofar as we cannot worship as we would today. Yet He is not hidden for long. We shall surely see Him for Holy Week, which commences next week on Palm Sunday.
Let us spend Passiontide wisely in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let us make the first of the six special Passiontide collects our own:–
O Lord God our heavenly Father, regard, we beseech thee, with thy divine pity the pains of all thy children, and grant that the passion of our Lord and his infinite merits may make fruitful for good the miseries of the innocent, the sufferings of the sick, and the sorrow of the bereaved; through him who suffered in our flesh and died for our sake, thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christopher Hartley is St Vincent’s Sacristan. The Reverend Dr Michael Hull is an Assistant Priest at St Vincent’s.