Sunday, April 02, 2006

Passiontide

Today we veiled the crosses, images, and statuary. Today we ceased singing all Glorias. Passtiontide begins today-- not with Holy Week, as Lutheran Worship wrongly has it, since they wrongly followed the late-20th century liturgical fad of messing with traditional forms. Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday are not the same thing. Two weeks for Passiontide provide ample space for liturgical focus on the Passion of Christ. Of course, those who mess with traditional forms also tend to think that all of Lent is sort of a Passion-tide. They're really wrong too, because then they miss the liturgical heart of Lent, which is penitence and self-denial, something which also figures prominently in the Eastern rite. The churches of the East don't do the veiling, however, because they tend to use all of Lent to focus on self-denial, fasting, and asceticism. I rather think that the traditional Western rite has this thing about right, actually. That is, using the first part of Lent to emphasize penitential sorrow (as opposed to mere asceticism) and then using this last part to mingle that sorrow with Passiontide. So we welcome Passiontide today, and take another step downward into the abyss of sorrows and darkness; until we reach Good Friday, when the veil comes off the processional cross, in token of the great removal of veils, sorrows, sadness, and darkness, at the Holy Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord.

8 comments:

Latif Haki Gaba said...

Fr. Eckardt,
You may be right regarding the reason veiling is not practiced in the Eastern Churches. It seems to me, though, & I'm happy to be corrected, that it simply never developed historically in the East, perhaps partly because it is less feasable to veil artwork that is two dimensional, which is much more common in the East. But the topic of veiling statues and crucifixes is very interesting. I have found several explanations. The 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia relates it to the Gospel pericope for Iudica, where John tells us at the end, "But Jesus hid Himself,"etc. I kind of like that one. LHG

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Actually, Fr. Eckardt, the third Sunday in Great Lent for the East marks "The Adoration of the Holy Cross." Last Sunday we processed around the nave with a cross, surrounded by flowers. For us the cross is glorious, because it marks Christ's victory over sin, death, hell and the devil. Yesterday's gospel, too, ended with the Lord's foretelling his passion and resurrection.

Cordially, in Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Father Eckardt said...

Leave it to Latif to find something the rest of us miss. Yes, "He hid Himself" certainly makes veiling appropriate.

Regarding the Eastern Lenten emphasis, I did not mean to imply that the Passion is omitted in it, but rather to say that the thread of self-denial seems to run more prominently throughout their Lenten themes than in the West. The Eastern Lenten emphasis on hesychasm, for instance, which seeks to acquire an inner stillness while ignoring the physical senses, tends in my estimation to regard the fast more as a means of assistance toward achieving a return to an edenic state, and is a bit of a contrast with fasting within the context of penitence. Even the Third Sunday in Lent among the Orthodox, while called the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross, includes the Gospel from St. Mark 8 and Jesus' requirement that whoever follows Him take up his cross.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Eckardt,

I don't think we're that far apart on the question of Lenten emphasis (though I don't think you quite capture the point of hesychasm). I willingly grant the point that the thread of self-denial runs through Eastern Lenten themes. There is also, however, a prominent role for penitence as well. Compare the following Lenten verses:

"When I disobeyed in ignorance Thy fatherly glory, I wasted in iniquities the riches that Thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to Thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, I have sinned before Thee, O compassionate Father, receive me repentant, and make me as one of Thy hired servants."

and these words to God:

Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver of Life, for early in the morning my spirit hastens to Your holy temple, bringing the temple of my body all defiled. But as one compassionate, cleanse me, I pray, by
Your loving-kindness and mercy.

and these to the Theotokos:

Guide me in the paths of salvation, O Theotokos, for I have befouled my soul with shameful sins and I needlessly squandered all of my life’s resources. By your intercession deliver me from every uncleanness.

As to the Cross,

"Today is suspended upon the Tree,
He who suspended the land upon the waters
Today is suspended upon the Tree,
He who suspended the land upon the waters
Today is suspended upon the Tree,
He who suspended the land upon the waters

A crown of thorns crowns Him,
Who is the King of Angels.
He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery
Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds,
He received smitings,
He, Who freed Adam in the Jordan.
He is transfixed with nails,
Who is the Son of the Virgin

We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show us also, Thy glorious Resurrection."

and

"O Lord, when Thou hadst ascended the cross, fear and trembling seized all creation. Thou hast not suffered the Earth to swallow those who crucified Thee, but Thou hast commanded Hell to render up its prisoners for the regeneration of mortal man. Judge of the living and the dead, Thou hast come, to bring not death but life! O Thou that lovest mankind, glory to Thee!"

Orthodox theology tends not to be comprised of fundamentals, but of fullness; not of either/ors, but both/ands (with the obvious exception of heresies).

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Father Eckardt said...

Fr. Hogg,

Yes, certainly the East is not lacking in references to penitence. With all its venerable saints waxing so eloquent on the subject, how could it? My observation has to do with thematic stresses and unity. The fact that a thematic unity links the Sundays of Lent to one another seems more pronounced than at other times of the year, in both traditions. In the West, it is also seen--well, it *used to be* seen for most, until Vatican II--in the Septuagesima season, whereas in the East, I believe there appear four pre-Lenten Sundays, with at least the first two dealing thematically with penitence (the Sunday of the Tax Collector and Pharisee and the Sunday of the Prodigal Son).

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Well put, Fr. Eckardt.

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Jarred said...

Just curious, does having Passion Sunday the Sunday before Palm Sunday confuse some people?
Do you receive feedback about it seeming to be in conflict with Good Friday?

A curious Presbyterian....

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Passion Sunday is meant to introduce Passiontide, and entire two-week emphasis on the Passion of Christ which culminates on Good Friday. So no, it shouldn't confuse anyone, especially if the emphasis of Passiontide is distinguished a bit from the rest of the Lenten season.