When you walk into the church for the next two weeks, you will notice something different. Most of our statues, as well as the crucifix above the tabernacle, will be covered in violet cloths. This has been the practice of the Church for many years and it happens during what is known as Passiontide. These are the final two weeks of Lent, beginning on the 5th Sunday of Lent. According to one resource I consulted, this practice of veiling images is meant “to serve as a stark and inescapable visual reminder that these two weeks are the most spiritually intense, solemn and mournful weeks of the liturgical year.” Instead of coasting through the final days of Lent, Passiontide invites us to double-down and so re-commit ourselves to fully embracing the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
During these two weeks, we would do well to keep the Passion of Jesus ever before us, especially during our times of prayer. This can be accomplished in different ways. For example, I always try to find time to re-watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Watching that movie has forever changed the way that I consider what Jesus went through out of love for sinful humanity, myself included. Praying the Stations of the Cross is another very helpful spiritual practice. Yet another helpful practice is to spend extra time with the Word of God, especially those passages that focus more specifically on the Passion. With that said, let me offer you the following challenge for this coming week (which I hope will extend through Good Friday as well):
Challenge: Pray for 5-10 minutes each day with the Scriptures that focus on the Passion of Christ
Fruit: Keeping the Passion ever before us as we finish Lent
The obvious place to start are with the Passion narratives from the Four Gospels. For your reference, they are as follows:
Another highly recommended set of passages to pray with during Passiontide are what are known as the Seven Penitential Psalms. These psalms help to stir up in us a sense of sorrow for our sins, which were the reason for Christ’s Passion. They help increase our desire for conversion. The Seven Penitential Psalms are all found in the Book of Psalm, and they are as follows: Ps. 6, Ps. 32, Ps. 38, Ps. 51, Ps. 102, Ps. 130, and Ps. 143. The USCCB has all of these psalms listed on one page, along with a link to a reflection on each Psalm. If you do a search for “USCCB Seven Penitential Psalms”, it should be one of the first items that comes up.
All of these passages should be more than enough material to reflect on during these days, but if you get through them all before Good Friday, go back to those passages that stood out and pray with them some more.