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Passion Sunday

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Altar cross enshrouded for Lent

Choir-pew with altar in background. The altar cross is enshrouded in crimson for Passion Week.

Passion Sunday (Dominica de Passione) is the name that was given to the fifth Sunday of Lent in pre-1960 General Roman Calendar. In 1960 Pope John XXIII changed the official name to "First Sunday in Passiontide" (Dominica I in Passione) to fit with the name that his predecessor Pope Pius XII had given to Palm Sunday, calling it the "Second Sunday in Passiontide or Palm Sunday" (Dominica II in Passione seu in palmis). In 1969 Pope Paul VI removed the distinction between Passiontide and the general season of Lent, giving Palm Sunday the official full name of "Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord" (Dominica in Palmis de Passione Domini) and making what had been the First Sunday in Passiontide simply the Fifth Sunday in Lent. High Anglicans and traditionalist Catholics continue to observe pre-1960 calendars, which use the older terminology, when the entire week beginning with the fifth Sunday of Lent was often called Passion Week prior to the calendar reform, which officially transferred that term to the following week; yet, as in the case of Palm Sunday, most Roman Catholic and Protestant laity alike continue to refer to the last week before Easter by its original name: Holy Week; indeed, this is the term employed in the Sacramentary and Lectionary of the Catholic Church.

When the term Passion Sunday is applied to the fifth Sunday of Lent, it marks the start of a two-week sub-season often referred to as Passiontide (and the formal name for it in the Roman Catholic calendar was actually the First Sunday of the Passion, in Latin Tempus Passionis).

Those who use the Tridentine Mass refer to it also as Judica Sunday (or, in the spelling of the 1962 Missal, Iudica Sunday) after that day's Introit: "Iudica me, Deus" ("Judge me, O Lord") from Psalm 42 (43), the psalm that, in that form of the Roman Rite is normally recited at the start of each Mass, but that from this Sunday to Holy Thursday inclusive is omitted in ferial Masses.

Passion Sunday was called Black Sunday in Germany, because of the practice of veiling the crucifixes and statues in the church before Mass on that day, which was done locally in black, although violet veils are more common. This practice is not obligatory but may be observed if the episcopal conference decides; crosses remain covered until the end of the Good Friday celebration of the Lord's Passion, images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.[1]

In those Anglican churches which choose to follow the Sarum Use, crimson vestments and hangings are pressed into service on this day—replacing the Lenten array (unbleached muslin cloth)—and vestments are crimson until (and including) Holy Saturday. Reflecting the recent playing down of Passiontide, the Church of England's Common Worship liturgical resources suggest red for Holy Week only (with the exception of the Maundy Thursday eucharists).

The historical readings for this day are Genesis 12:1-3, Hebrews 9:11-15, John 8:46-59, and Psalm 43. I Corinthians 1:21-31 and Matthew 26:17-29 are alternate readings.[2]

The three-year lectionary appoints the following readings for this day[3]:

See also

  • Annunciation- This event celebrated on March 25 may be celebrated in place of Judica Sunday


  1. See note in the Roman Missal at the end of the Mass of Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent.
  2. Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary. St. Louis: MorningStar Music Publishers, 1996. 202
  3. ibid. 200-201

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.nn:5. sundag i faste

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