The term ‘Passiontide’ refers to the last 2 weeks of Lent. Beginning on the fifth Sunday in Lent, there is a noticeable change of gear, with an escalating focus on Jesus’ approaching suffering and death. Many denominations, the Anglican Communion among them, still observe the season of Passiontide, which began this year on Sunday 29 March.
It is still uncertain when Christians first began to mark an annual memorial of the events of the final week in the life of Jesus. Prior to this, the celebration of the Christian Eucharist every Sunday (as the day of resurrection) was the focus of recalling the death and resurrection of Christ (the word eucharist derives from the Greek and simply means ‘thanksgiving’).
As the custom-developed this Pascha (a word derived indirectly from pesach, Hebrew ‘Passover’) began as a night-long vigil, followed by the celebration of the Eucharist at cock-crow. All the great Christological themes of redemption were included within it: incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, glorification. Over time, this lengthened into what we now commemorate as Holy Week and Easter.
Those who make a habit of attending services during Holy Week often find that they are able to enter into the final week of Jesus’ life with deeper reverence and reflection and can then experience a heightened sense of joyfulness with the dawn of Easter Day. It is a means by which we can share in Christ’s own journey, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the empty tomb of Easter morning.
Whilst public services are presently suspended, the Cathedral will be uploading material throughout this time to help all who wish to make their own personal journey through Passiontide and Holy Week. Although physically separate, we pray that we will be drawn together spiritually and find ourselves as deeply moved and blessed this year as in previous years.
Make sure to watch this space and follow our Facebook page @belfastcathedral to stay up-to-date.