Passion Sunday

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Crucifix veiled for Passiontide in the Parish Church of St. Martin, Tannheim, Baden Württemberg, Germany.

Passion Sunday is either the fifth or sixth Sunday of Lent.

Sixth Sunday of Lent

In the Roman Rite the name "Passion Sunday" has never been officially applied to the sixth Sunday of Lent in spite of the reading at the Mass of that day of an account in one of the Synoptic Gospels of the Passion of Christ. Until 1969, the account read was always that of the Gospel of Matthew: the whole of chapters 26 and 27 (Matthew 26:1-27:66)[1] until 1954, but reduced in 1955 to Matthew 26:36-27:60 and for priests celebrating a second or a third Mass on that day to Matthew 27:45-52 alone.[2] Since 1970, the revision of the Roman Missal has introduced a three-year cycle in which the accounts of Matthew (26:14–27:66 or 27:11-54), Mark (14:1–15:47 or 15:1-39) and Luke (22:14–23:56 or 23:1-49 are read in successive years.[3]

Until 1954, the name of the sixth Sunday of Lent was "Palm Sunday".[4] In 1955, the name became, for 15 years only, "Second Sunday of the Passion or Palm Sunday".[5] In 1970, it became "Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord".[6]

The sixth Sunday of Lent has thus never officially been given the exact name "Passion Sunday" and the term "Palm Sunday" is given first place in its present official name.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Until 1959, the fifth Sunday of Lent was known as Passion Sunday.[7] It marked the beginning of a two-week-long period known as Passiontide, which is still observed by various denominations in Protestantism and by some traditionalist Catholics. In 1960, Pope John XXIII's Code of Rubrics changed the name for that Sunday to "First Sunday of the Passion"[8] bringing the name into harmony with the name that Pope Pius XII gave, five years earlier, to the sixth Sunday of Lent, "Second Sunday of the Passion or Palm Sunday".

Pope Paul VI's revision in 1969 removed a distinction that existed (although with overlap) between Lent and Passiontide, which began with the fifth Sunday of Lent. The distinction, explicit in the 1960 Code of Rubrics,[9] predates it.[10] He removed from the fifth Sunday of Lent the reference to the Passion.

Although Passiontide as a distinct liturgical season was thus abolished, the Roman Rite liturgy continues to bring the Passion of Christ to mind, from Monday of the fifth week of Lent onward, through the choice of hymns, the use on the weekdays of the fifth week of Lent of Preface I of the Passion of the Lord, with Preface II of the Passion of the Lord being used on the first three weekdays of Holy Week, and the authorization of the practice of covering crosses and images from the fifth Sunday of Lent onward, if the Conference of Bishops so decides. Where this practice is followed, crucifixes remain covered until the end of the Good Friday celebration of the Lord's Passion; statues remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.[11]

Other names

The entrance antiphon of the Mass on the fifth Sunday of Lent begins with the word "Iudica" (older spelling, "Judica"). This provides another name for that Sunday: "Iudica Sunday" or "Judica Sunday", similar to the name "Laetare Sunday" for the fourth Sunday. Because of the custom of veiling crucifixes and statues in the church before Mass on the fifth Sunday of Lent, this Sunday was called Black Sunday in Germany, where the veils, which elsewhere were generally violet, were of black colour.

Passion Sunday is also known as Carlin or Carling Sunday in the north-east of England, when carlin peas are eaten.[12]

Those who continue to observe earlier forms of the Roman Rite or of liturgies modelled on it refer to the fifth Sunday of Lent by one or other of its previous names.

Anglican usage

In those Anglican churches which follow the Sarum Use, crimson vestments and hangings are pressed into service on the fifth Sunday of Lent – 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 Eucharist).

Lutheran readings

The historical readings for the fifth Sunday of Lent in the Lutheran tradition 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.[13]

The three-year lectionary appoints the following readings for the fifth Sunday of Lent:[14]


  1. Missale Romanum, 1920 typical edition, pp. 179-185
  2. Missale Romanum 1962, pp. 137-140
  3. Readings for the Sundays of Lent
  4. Dominica in Palmis - Missale Romanum, 1920 typical edition, p. 171
  5. Dominica II Passionis seu in palmis - Missale Romanum 1962, p. 130
  6. Dominica in Palmis de Passione Domini - current edition of the Roman Missal
  7. Dominica de Passione - Missale Romanum, 1920 typical edition, p. 156
  8. Dominica I Passionis - Missale Romanum 1962, p. 118
  9. The Code of Rubrics speaks of Lent (tempus quadragesimale) as comprising Passiontide (tempus Passionis), but at the same time distinguishes Lent in a narrower sense (tempus Quadragesimae) from Passiontide.
  10. The distinction is found repeatedly in, for instance, the pre-1960 Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, which speaks of Passiontide as following Lent (without suggesting that Lenten observances should end at that point), but which also speaks of Lent as extending at least to Wednesday of Holy Week, as in: "In Quadragesima autem a Feria IV Cinerum usque ad Feriam IV Majoris Hebdomadae ..." (Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, XI, 2).
  11. See note in the Roman Missal at the end of the Mass of Saturday of the fourth week of Lent.
  12. Heritage Vegetables, Sue Stickland. London: Gaia Books. p 149 (1998).
  13. Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary. St. Louis: MorningStar Music Publishers, 1996. 202
  14. Hymnary. 200-201