Passion Week

Passion Week a name in Church language for the week preceding Easter, because with it, in strict sense; the commemoration of the passion of Jesus the Christ is observed by the Christian churches that observe holidays. The week was by the early Church called Hebdomas Magna, or the Great Week. St. Chrysostom says that it was so called, not because it consisted of longer days or more in number than other weeks, but because at this time great things were wrought for us by Christ; for in this week the ancient tyranny of the devil was dissolved, death was extinct, the strong man was bound, his goods were spoiled, sin was abolished, the curse was destroyed, paradise was opened, heaven became accessible, men and angels were joined together, the middle wall of partition was broken down, the barriers were taken out of the way. the God of peace made peace between things in heaven and things in earth. Many of the early Christians. were accustomed to fast much more strictly in this than in the other weeks of Lent. Epiphanius says that in his time the people confined their diet during that week to dried meats, namely, bread .and salt and water. Nor were these used during the day, but in the evening. In another place the same ancient writer says, "Some continue the whole week, making one prolonged fast of the whole; others eat after two days; and others every evening." Chrysostom mentions that during this week it was customary to make a more liberal distribution of alms to the poor, and the exercise of all kinds of charity to those who had need of it. To servants it was a time of rest and liberty, and the same privilege extended to, the week following as well as to the week preceding Easter. The emperors, also, granted a general release to prisoners at this season, and commanded all suits and processes at law to cease. The Thursday of the Passion Week, being the day on which Christ was betrayed, was observed with some peculiar customs. In some of the Latin churches: the communion was administered on this day in the evening, in imitation of Christ's last supper, a provision being made for this in one of the canons of the third Council of Carthage. On this day the competentes, or candidates for baptism, publicly recited the creed in the presence of the bishop or presbyters in the church. Such public penitents, also, as had completed the penance enjoined by the Church, were then absolved. On this day, too, it was customary for servants to receive the communion. (The modern ritualists call it Maunday Thursday, q.v.) The Friday was called Good Friday (q.v.), or Pasch of the Cross, in opposition to Easter, or the Pasch of the Resurrection. From the canons of the fourth Council of Toledo it would appear that a general absolution was proclaimed to all those who observed the day with fasting, prayers, or true contrition. The Saturday, or Sabbath, in Passion Week, was commonly known by the name of the Great Sabbath. It was the only Sabbath throughout the year that the Greek churches, and some of the Western, kept as a fast. The fast was continued not only until evening, but protracted till cock-crowing in the morning, which was supposed to be the time of Christ's resurrection. The previous part of the night was spent in religious exercises of various kinds. Eusebius tells us that in the time of Constantine this vigil was kept with great pomp; for he set up lofty pillars of wax to burn as torches all over the city, and lamps burning in all places, so that the night seemed to outshine the sun at noonday. Gregory Nazianzen also speaks of the custom of hanging up, lamps and torches both in the churches and in the private houses, which, he says, they did as a forerunner of that great Light the Sun of Righteousness arising on the world on Easter-day. This night was famous above all others for the baptism of catechumens. The fifth Sunday in Lent is sometimes called Passion Sunday, that name being applied to it in reference to Christ's prediction on that day of his approaching passion. Some persons call the week, of which Passion Sunday is the first, Passion Week, to distinguish it from the real Passion Week, which they call Holy Week.

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