In Western liturgy, the fifth Sunday of Lent has long been termed “Passion Sunday”. In the Sarum Use (England), crimson vestments and hangings were used from this fifth Sunday of Lent until and including Holy Saturday. Prior to this in Lent the Sarum tradition is to use “Lenten array” (unbleached muslin cloth). [It would be interesting if anyone still follows this?]
Since liturgical and lectionary renewal in the West from Vatican II in the 1960s, it is not the fifth but the sixth Sunday in Lent which is known as Passion Sunday. This is the Sunday on which we read the Passion account from the synoptic gospel for the liturgical year [Mark in 2012]. Lent 6/Passion Sunday does begin an intensification of Lent called Holy Week – with a change of colour from Violet to Red.
The Books of Common Prayer (1549, 1552, 1559, 1662), of course, know nothing of “Passion Sunday”. That was revived in the nineteenth century and acknowledged as a nickname in the 1928 Scottish and English Proposed Books.
Lent 6 begins with the Palm Sunday gospel and the blessing of palm branches and, hence, is appropriately understood in terms such as “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord”, “The Sunday of the Passion with the Liturgy of the Palms”
This Sunday is March 25 – the usual date for the feast of the Annunciation. Regulars here won’t be surprised I’m getting questions about this… We aren’t helped by the NZ Lectionary having in bold type and italics: “This is a principal feast and should not be displaced by any other celebration”. No prizes, though, to those communities who follow that imperative and have the Annunciation on Sunday.
We are, further, not helped by the NZ Prayer Book. It classifies the Annunciation with the imaginative term “Other Feast and Holy Day in bold type” (page 7). And states “Those in bold type take precedence over Sundays…” In all but the most recent edition there is a conflicting rule in the back of the Prayer Book (page 940) where the “Third, Fourth or Fifth Sunday in Lent” means that the Annunciation is “transferred to Monday” [In the 1989, 1997, and 2002 editions the reference on page 7 is mistakenly to page 944. The 2005 edition removes that error, and also the conflicting rule at the back of the book, but that edition is really a whole other blog post].
The new rules from General Synod (2009) has the Annunciation upgraded and given the more imaginative title of being a “Principal Feast”. Then we are told, “These days, and the liturgical provision for them, should not be displaced by any other celebration, except that the Annunciation, falling on a Sunday, is transferred to the Monday following…”
The question remains: does the first evensong of the Annunciation take precedence over the evensong of the Fifth Sunday in Lent. My answer: No (I challenge you to an arm wrestle, paper-scissors-rock, or maniple-slapping at ten paces! You choose). The NZ Lectionary of the Anglican Church of Or is wrong in suggesting it as an option.
Sunday 25 March is the Fifth Sunday in Lent. It is not Passion Sunday. It is not the feast of the Annunciation. The liturgical colour is Violet. All day – including at Evening Prayer. Evening Prayer is that of Lent 5, not that of the Annunciation.