Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 17th, 2011 - Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday

3 Reflections on the readings follow . . . . .

Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66

All Is Fulfilled  (Dr. Scott Hahn)
“All this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel (see Matthew 26:56).
Indeed, we have reached the climax of the liturgical year, the highest peak of salvation history, when all that has been anticipated and promised is to be fulfilled.

By the close of today’s long Gospel, the work of our redemption will have been accomplished, the new covenant will be written in the blood of His broken body hanging on the cross at the place called the Skull.

In His Passion, Jesus is “counted among the wicked,” as Isaiah had foretold (see Isaiah 53:12). He is revealed definitively as the Suffering Servant the prophet announced, the long-awaited Messiah whose words of obedience and faith ring out in today’s First Reading and Psalm.

The taunts and torments we hear in these two readings punctuate the Gospel as Jesus is beaten and mocked (see Matthew 27:31), as His hands and feet are pierced, as enemies gamble for His clothes (see Matthew 27:35), and as his enemies dare Him to prove His divinity by saving Himself from suffering (see Matthew 27:39-44).

He remains faithful to God’s will to the end, does not turn back in His trial. He gives Himself freely to His torturers, confident that, as He speaks in today’s First Reading: “The Lord God is My help…I shall not be put to shame.”

Destined to sin and death as children of Adam’s disobedience, we have been set free for holiness and life by Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father’s will (see Romans 5:12-14,17-19; Ephesians 2:2; 5:6).
This is why God greatly exalted Him. This is why we have salvation in His Name. Following His example of humble obedience in the trials and crosses of our lives, we know we will never be forsaken. We know, as the centurion today, that truly this is the Son of God (see Matthew 27:54).

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SOURCE : Scott Hahn, Ph.D.

PASSION SUNDAY / PALM SUNDAY  Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.
Passion Sunday -- The Sunday before Easter is observed by virtually all Christians -- Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox -- as Palm Sunday.  But for the Roman Catholic Church it is also Passion Sunday during which all stand for readings and meditations from the passion account from one of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke).  For all Christian Church traditions the feast has a bittersweet taste.  Though it celebrates the King's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the parade leads straight to the Lord Jesus' suffering and death on Calvary.

Passion Sunday / Palm Sunday.  We now come to the Sunday with a split personality.  It starts with an upbeat gospel recounting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  It is a festive affair, complete with a parade route strewn with palm branches instead of ticker tape.  But we quickly progress to the stark reading of Jesus’ passion, bearable only because we already know its happy ending.  Mel Gibson’s film did us a favor in reminding us how shockingly brutal the whole business really was.

Two names for the same day: Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.  I propose a third name: Fickle Sunday.  For the same crowd that was cheering during the parade was jeering a few days later.  They’d been wowed by his sermons, fed with loaves and fishes, healed of their diseases, delivered of their demons.  But as soon as the tide began to turn, so did they.  Crucify Him! Their cries of “Hosanna” turned to shouts of a very different kind: “Crucify him!”

Of course, he was not surprised in the least.  The gospels tell us that he knew the human mind and heart all too well.  He was not fooled by all the acclamations and fanfare.  Flattery could not swell his head.  He had no illusions of grandeur or ambition for worldly glory.  In fact, our second reading tells us that He had willingly emptied Himself of heavenly glory in pursuit of His true passion – His Fathers will and our salvation.  

Jesus “set his face like flint.”  He was on a mission and nothing would deter him.  He barreled through barriers that usually stop us dead in our tracks–fear of ridicule, fear of suffering, abandonment by our closest companions.  He was willing to endure the sting of sin to blot out sin, and was eager to face death in order to overcome it.

Pharisee - Crucify Him! Passion of the ChristHe did indeed have a “well-trained tongue.”  His words had mesmerized the crowds, intrigued Herod and even made Pilate stop and think.  But now his lips are strangely silent.  All the gospels point out that he said very little during his passion, collecting only seven brief statements from the cross.  Maybe this was to fulfill the Scripture that said “like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53: 7b).  Actually, everything that happened in these fateful hours fulfilled Scripture.  Isaiah 50 had foretold the beating and mockery.  Psalm 22 lays it all out hundreds of years before it happens: his thirst, the piercing of his hands and feet by Gentiles (called “dogs” by the Jews), and the casting of lots for his clothing.  The opening line of this psalm happens to be “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Could it be that the Lord uttered this phrase to remind us that this was all in the plan?

So the virtual silence of his well-trained tongue was to fulfill Scripture.  But there was another reason for his silence.  Though Jesus was destined to preach on Good Friday, the message was not to be delivered in words.  The language of this sermon was to be "body language."  Good Friday, according to Jewish reckoning, actually began at sundown on Holy Thursday.  So on the beginning of his final day, Jesus gave us the verbal caption of his last and greatest sermon: “This is my body, given for you; this is my blood, which is poured out for you.”

“I love you” is not so much something you say as something you demonstrate.  Diamonds may be a moving testimony to love, but the laying down of one’s life is even more compelling.  And though this life is human and therefore vulnerable, it is also divine and therefore infinite in value.  A gift so valuable that it outweighs every offense committed from the dawn of time till the end of the world.  A gift so powerful that it melts hearts, opens the barred gates of paradise, and makes all things new.

The Importance of Passion Sunday

Eons ago, back before 1970, the season of Lent had a slightly different structure than it does now. If you happen to look at a missal from back then, you'll notice that there are only four Sundays of Lent, followed by Passion Sunday, followed by Palm Sunday. In a current missal you will typically see that Palm Sunday is now labeled “Passion (Palm) Sunday”.
Why is this? What did a separate day signify before 1970?
According to Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year, “This Sunday is called Passion Sunday, because the Church begins, on this day, to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought”. Traditionally, all statues and crucifixes were veiled at the Vespers for Passion Sunday. The Introit, Gradual and Tract all are petitions to save the just from the persecution of the unjust and the Tract even foreshadows the scourging.
<~~ Introit: “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for thou art my God and my strength...”
Gradual: “Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; teach me to do thy will. Thou, O Lord, art my deliverer from the enraged Gentiles: thou wilt put me out of the reach of those that assault me; and thou wilt rescue me from the unrighteous man.”
Tract: “Many a time have they fought against me from my youth. Let Israel now say: They have often attacked me from my youth. But they could not prevail over me: the wicked have wrought upon my back. They have lengthened their iniquity: the Lord who is just, will cut the necks of sinners.”
The Epistle is from Heb 9, 11-15 and is St. Paul's exposition of Christ as both the High Priest and the perfect victim who was sacrificed for our salvation.
The Gospel is from John 8: 46-59 and is the condemnation of the Jews by Christ in the temple. He tells them that they do not know God and that before Abraham was I AM. They try to stone him but he slips away.
The Communion Antiphon is the final Passion foreshadowing of the Mass. The verse is the words Christ used to institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper: “'This is my body, which shall be given up for you: this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood,' says the Lord, 'do this as often as you receive it, in remembrance of me.'”

Other Names for Passion Sunday

Passion Sunday was also known as “Judica Sunday” in reference to the Introit “Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta...”, similar to Laetare and Gaudete Sundays being named after the first word of the Introit for those days.
The Sunday is also known as Neomania, the Sunday of the new moon, because it always falls after the new moon which regulates the feast of Easter.
The Greek Church simply calls this Sunday the fifth Sunday of the holy fasts.
The stational Mass for Passion Sunday was celebrated at the basilica of St. Peter. It was considered such an important day that no other feast had precedence.

Elimination of Passion Sunday

So why was this Sunday eliminated from the liturgical year?
According to Cardinal Bugnini in his Reform of the Liturgy, “Also suppressed as a title is 'Passiontide.' The whole of it now becomes, even externally, a part of Lent...The readings and prayers used in antiquity on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays have been restored (the Sundays of 'the Samaritan,' 'theMan Born Blind,' and 'Lazarus'). The final two weeks are dominated by preparation for the celebration of the passion.”
And so, on March 21, 1969, the Sacred Congregation of Rites published the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar which stated that “The Sundays of this season are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. The Sixth Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, is called Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday).”
In spite of the suppression of Passion Sunday, the tradition still echoes in the new rite. It is still permitted to veil the statues and crucifixes at vespers before the fifth Sunday of Lent if your parish wants to do it before Holy Thursday. You can also still hear, if your parish uses the propers of the season, Psalm 42, 1-2 as the Introit on this day. “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for thou art my God and my strength...”

The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, Annibale Bugnini, 1990, Liturgical Press
Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979, 1982, Liturgical Press
The Liturgical Year, Vol. 6,Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., Loreto Publications
Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, Adrian Fortescue & J. B. O'Connell, 1996, Saint Austin Press
Missale Romanum, 1964, Benziger Brothers
Saint Joseph Sunday Missal,1999, Catholic Book Publishing
Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts,1988, Congregation for Divine Worshop, USCCB

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