Some Thoughts on Passion Sunday in the Plague Year 2020
Here are some Christian facts about Passion Sunday: “In the liturgical year of some Christian denominations, Passion Sunday is the fifth Sunday of Lent, marking the beginning of the two-week period called Passiontide. 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 shift away from the observance of Passiontide as a distinct season, the Church of England's Common Worship liturgical resources suggest red for Holy Week only (with the exception of the Maundy Thursday Eucharist)”.
This is a strange year, to be sure. We will not be celebrating Passion Sunday in the traditional way, that is, inside our beloved St. Paul’s. No, we are aiding the civil authorities in “tamping down” the spread of the current plague, COVID-19. In this, we are not surrendering to secular pressure, but are instead doing our Christian duty in obeying the civil authorities. Consider these words from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “Romans 13:5-7 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” As always, Christians make the best subjects. After all, it is our deep-seated religious sense that makes the exercise of a free republic possible. We obey the law, because it is the right thing to do.
However our Holy Week plays out, whether it be inside our church, or if it be in front of our computer screens, or just time alone with our Prayer Books, let us continue to practice a Holy Lent. We are almost there, to the glorious celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yet, we are not there yet, as the gospel for Passion Sunday indicates. Here, in the eighth chapter of St. John, we see the pressure building around the person of Jesus. The last line of the Gospel selection says, “59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”
The reason they were so incensed? Jesus has just told them, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Without saying it directly, He told the Jews that He was God. All they saw was blasphemy, despite the signs Jesus worked among them.
In these waning days of Lent, let us strive to hold Jesus in our hearts as Lord and God. Let us adore the One who gave all for us. Let us supplicate Him for His mercy, that our nation may have a glorious rebirth of health, as we are delivered from the COVID-19 plague. -Fr. Stephen Stults