Luke 19:28-40 + Isaiah 50:4-7 + Philippians 2:6-11 + Luke 22:14—23:56
… he humbled himself, / becoming obedient unto death, / even death on a cross.
The Roman Missal is the book from which the Father offers most of the prayers of the Holy Mass. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he rests on the sacrificial altar. In this book, in the heading for the fifth Sunday of Lent, it says: “In the dioceses of the United States, the practice of covering crosses and pictures throughout the church from this Sunday may be observed”.
The verb used is “can be observed”. This raises the question: should this practice be observed? We might also wonder why this practice can be observed from this particular Lenten Sunday. These two questions are linked.
This last question is partly answered by the prayer that the priest pronounces before the ancient hymn known as sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy”). This prayer is called the Preface because it introduces the Eucharistic Prayer. The preface changes throughout the liturgical year, linking the season or feast of the day to the Eucharistic prayer.
On the weekdays following the fifth Sunday of Lent, that is to say the last week, the Roman Missal orders the priest to pray “Preface I to the Passion of the Lord”. During the week, between Palm Sunday and the beginning of the Sacred Triduum, the priest recites the “Preface II of the Passion of the Lord”. This focus on the Passion of Christ is why these two weeks are traditionally called “Passiontide”.
Passiontide is part of Lent. One could even say that it is a gradation of Lent. Consider: When you climb a towering mountain, you climb in stages. At the foot of the mountain, the climb is easier. Higher up, the difficulty increases as rock formations and other obstacles present themselves. But when you reach the treeline of the mountain, an even more serious approach is in order, as you face thin air.
To apply this analogy to the preparation of the Church for Easter, the top of the mountain – the goal of the ascent – is the sacred Triduum: the three days during which the Church celebrates the Last Supper, Death and Resurrection. of Jesus. The previous week and a half – Passiontide – is the last part of the ascent in thin air. Prior to Passiontide, the majority of the climb runs from Ash Wednesday to the Sunday before Palm Sunday. Moreover, in the calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass, there is a period of preparation for the Sacred Triduum even before Ash Wednesday: this period begins on the ninth Sunday before Easter, and is called Septuagesima.
On Palm Sunday, two Gospel passages are proclaimed: one at the beginning of Mass and the other at the usual time of the Gospel. The first passage of this Sunday’s Gospel is easy to hear. The crowds praise Jesus. They hail Jesus as their Messiah. From the start, however, Jesus knows their praise is in vain. He hears their words, but He knows their hearts. He knows the ascension that lies ahead of him in the coming week.
The events proclaimed in the Passion narrative are the events of Good Friday, summit of Mt. On Mount Calvary, God the Father sacrifices his Son, Mary sacrifices her Son and Jesus sacrifices himself entirely: Body and Blood, soul and divinity. Few followers of Jesus were both able and willing to ascend and stay with Jesus on top of this mountain. Few of them had pure faith.
While the Passion narrative is proclaimed on Palm Sunday at the usual time for the reading of the Gospel, the Church proclaims the Passion narrative a second time during Holy Week, as part of the liturgy of Good Friday. There is, however, a difference between these two proclamations. On Good Friday, it is always the story of the Passion of the story of the Gospel of Saint John that is proclaimed. On Palm Sunday, the Passion story comes from one of the other three Gospel stories. These stories complement each other and focus our attention on different aspects of Jesus’ suffering for us.
Jesus invites you to spend this week with him as he ascends. It’s easier for you to praise Jesus this Palm Sunday. It is more difficult to share his offering on Mount Calvary, because it requires a purer faith. God calls us to rely only on the sight that comes from faith and to keep the eyes of the soul fixed on the glory of Christ crucified.