Lenten Sundays

Christ in the Desert ~ 1872 ~ Ivan Kramskoi

Color me surprised as this I did not know.  Lenten Sundays are Feast Days.  Lent is actually 46 days long, but the Sundays are not counted because of this.  Hence, 40 days of Lent.  The Sundays are the First Sunday of Lent, The Second Sunday of Lent, The Third Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday, Passion Sunday, and Palm Sunday.  Lent ends at sun down on Holy Thursday, which I also didn’t know (i’ve ale read that it ends at sundown on Holy Saturday so I’m not sure).  I thought it ended on Easter Sunday.

Laetare Sunday according to Fish Eaters:

The fourth Sunday of Lent is rather unique; like the third Sunday of Advent (“Gaudete Sunday”), the fourth Sunday of Lent is a break in an otherwise penitential season. The vestments for this day will be rose, as they are on Gaudete Sunday in Advent, and flowers may adorn the Altar. This day is called “Laetare Sunday” (also “Rose Sunday” ), and takes its name from the opening words of the Mass, the Introit’s “Laetare, Jerusalem”:

Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. (Psalm) Laetatus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus. Gloria Patri. 

Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. (Psalm) I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.

And here is why the vestments will be Rose on this Sunday (from the same link):

The rose vestments on Laetare Sunday is a custom originating in the fact that, as a symbol of joy and hope in the middle of this somber Season, popes used to carry a golden rose in their right hand when returning from the celebration of Mass on this day (way back in 1051, Pope Leo IX called this custom an “ancient institution.”)

Passion Sunday, also from Fish Eaters:

This day — Passion Sunday — memorializes the increasing antipathy against Christ from the Jews who would not accept Him and accused Him of sorcery and of being blasphemous and possessed by a devil. From today until Maundy Thursday, the Júdica me and the Glória patris at the Introit and Lavabo are omitted from Masses of the Season (not Sundays and Feasts).

Today (unless this has already taken place on Ash Wednesday, as it is in some churches), statues and sacred images (except for the Stations of the Cross) are veiled with purple cloth beginning at the Vespers of Passion Sunday, and they remain covered until the Gloria of Holy Saturday, at which point Lent ends and Eastertide begins. Catholics cover statues and icons, etc., in their homes for the same time period (the cloth shouldn’t be transluscent or decorated in any way).

This veiling of the statues and icons stems from the Gospel reading of Passion Sunday (John 8:46-59), at the end of which the Jews take up stones to cast at Jesus, Who hides Himself away. The veiling also symbolizes the fact that Christ’s Divinity was hidden at the time of His Passion and death, the very essence of Passiontide.

At the Vespers Mass on Holy Saturday, Lent ends and Easter begins: the statues are unveiled at that time in one of the most glorious liturgical moments of the entire Church year, a moment that affirms His divinity and proclaims that “He is risen!”


Palm Sunday from Fish Eaters:

Today, this “Second Sunday of the Passion,” is the memorial of Christ’s “triumphant,” but misunderstood, entry into Jerusalem, the day that begins Holy Week. This entry into Jerusalem is seen as the prophetic fulfillment of Zacharias 9:9-10 :

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth. 

Before the Mass is the Blessing of the Palms, which includes an Antiphon, Psalms, and Gospel reading. Then comes the Procession with hymns, when we carry the palms either around the church or outside, weather permitting, and then the Mass, during which there is a very long reading sung in 3 parts by 3 deacons (or priest and deacons such as the case may be) — a long recitation of the Passion, including Matthew 26:36-75 and Matthew 27:1-60. Prepare for a very long Mass!

Carrying palms (or olive or willow branches, etc., if palms aren’t available) in procession goes way back into the Old Testament, where it was not only approved but commanded by God at the very foundation of the Old Testament religion. In the fall of the year, after the harvest, when the people gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles God said in Leviticus 23:40:

And you shall take to you on the first day the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook: And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God.

As each of these Sundays draws nearer, if and when I find more information or tradition I will share them with you.


**Apologies for the changes in font.  I have no idea why it did that.

UPDATE: More reading on Ash Wednesday.  It is excellent.

5 thoughts on “Lenten Sundays

  1. The way I understand it, every Sunday is a little Easter. To fast or do penance of any kind is sort of like a denial of the Resurrection. This remains in effect even during Lent. We aren’t supposed to gorge ourselves like gluttons either, but just avoid fasting, abstaining from meat, sweets, etc. We are permitted a measure of discretion, so there isn’t simply one rigid way to do this.


  2. Every Mass is an unbloody sacrifice; a crucifixion (this was all news to me until the last year). I haven’t heard not to do any kind of penance though as confessions usually happen on Sundays (at least in some churches). But it makes a lot of sense to abstain from fasting (without going overboard) but I’m not sure about penance.


  3. Every Mass makes us present to the one and only, once and for all sacrifice of Christ. Just a slight adjustment there. But we are celebrating and thanking God for the salvation that is ours through that sacrificial offering. It’s still primarily about how we will participate in the resurrection of the body. That’s partly why it is so bad to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin, because that reception is a sign of one’s fitness to be raised. If you have unforgiven mortal sin, you are perpetrating a enormous falsehood right at the core of what is supposed to be your worship of the God who saves you. But that might be too much of a digression.

    In terms of the penance assigned in the confessional, it is something meant to be done as soon as possible, so I think that overrides the usual consideration, not unlike rescuing your ox from a ditch on the Sabbath.


  4. It’s still primarily about how we will participate in the resurrection of the body.

    Meaning the Eucharist?

    According to the Baltimore Catechism, the Mass is an unbloody Sacrifice. Now, that does make us present to that sacrifice, so I’m not sure I see the difference? If you look at Q 923 it says exactly what you said, only it is much more than that. As stated in Q922:

    What were the ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered?

    A. The ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered were:
    1. To honor and glorify God;
    2. To thank Him for all the graces bestowed on the whole world;
    3. To satisfy God’s justice for the sins of men;
    4. To obtain all graces and blessings.

    and Q 923:

    923. How are the fruits of the Mass distributed?

    A. The fruits of the Mass are distributed thus:
    1. The first benefit is bestowed on the priest who says the Mass;
    2. The second on the person for whom the Mass is said, or for the intention for which it is said;
    3. The third on those who are present at the Mass, and particularly on those who serve it, and
    4. The fourth on all the faithful who are in communion with the Church.

    As to the penance for Confession, that makes sense and what I was thinking as well.


  5. @Stingray:

    ‘It’s still primarily about how we will participate in the resurrection of the body.

    Meaning the Eucharist?’

    I guess what I was referring to is our participation in the sacrifice of the Mass. That it’s not penitential was the main idea I was trying to convey. We still offer ourselves to the Father in union with Christ’s sacrifice, but as the word Eucharist is Greek for giving thanks, at least etymologically I see the main activity of the faithful at Mass is to celebrate our belief that we will rise bodily like Christ. Yes, the sacrificial element is also there.


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