web analytics
Lent 5

Lent 5 confusion

Lent 5

Passion Sunday

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

The Annunciation

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.

Similar Posts:

6 thoughts on “Lent 5 confusion”

  1. Bosco. I understand what you’re saying here. and the confusion implied by the Prayer Book is not helpful either. However, as a devotee of the place of the Annunciation to Our Lady in the Tradition, I am constantly aware of her calling and acceptance to become the human vehicle through whom God chose to manifest God’s-self, in the sending of His Only-Begotten Son into the world, in the human being of Jesus.

    My enunciation of the annunciation is often on my lips, so does not need a special commemoration:
    “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and Blessed is the Fruit of your womb, Jesus!”

  2. None of this bears on the NZ question, but I note with interest that in the calendars of the new Personal Ordinariates, Passion Sunday has been backdated to Lent V (yielding the old two weeks of Passiontide). I also note that in the Liturgical Ordo of the Ordinariate for England and Wales (and Scotland), the Annunciation has been bumped to Monday, and its First Evensong is omitted.

    About the suppressed Evensong, we read in the 1662 BCP about the vigils preceding major feasts: “if any of these Feast-days fall upon a Monday, then the Vigil or Fast-day shall be kept upon the Saturday, and not upon the Sunday next before it”. Now, I’ve never discovered a mechanism in the 1662 Book for what to do when a Red Letter Day coincides with an “important” Sunday (e.g. Easter Day falling on March 25). There are “tables of occurrences” in later editions, but I haven’t found a rule in the text of 1662 itself.

    But just assuming that Annunciation falls on a Monday, its fast must be observed on the preceding Saturday. But then there is the rubric at the head of the Collects, Epistles and Gospels, where we are told that “the Collect appointed for every Sunday, or for any Holy-day that hath a Vigil or Eve, shall be said at the Evening Service next before”. So, the fast/vigil is observed on Saturday, but First Evensong on the Sunday. (I worked that out independently in a bored moment a while ago, but I now note that Blunt’s Annotated BCP reaches the same conclusion.)

    In the proposed BCP of 1928 (C of E), Annunciation gets bumped to Monday if it falls on a Sunday. But it is ranked as a “Greater Feast”, so Evensong on the preceding Sunday will be of the Annunciation, with the Collect of the Sunday added in second position as a memorial.

    Ah, what fun when I should be working on something else…

  3. I hope this will be an interesting follow-up. I had the pleasure on Saturday of attending the All-Night Vigil for the Annunciation at a local Orthodox cathedral (not actually “all night” in these decadent times, of course, but nevertheless a good 2.25 hours!).

    My host asked me if Anglicans would be observing the vigil with comparable solemnities. I reported that most Anglicans would be transferring the feast to Monday — and that my own cathedral parish would actually be keeping it on the following Wednesday (to lend a suitably note to some diaconal ordinations that will be taking place that day, the only date on which both the bishop and the dean, both on sabbatical, are available).

    My host expressed some surprise and said that Eastern Christians just find ways of combining the propers of whatever feasts may occur on the same day. For instance, he said, there is a very special order for the Annunciation when it falls on Great (Good) Friday, since by an ancient tradition both Christ’s conception and Christ’s death were dated to March 25.

    This was, I confess, news to me. I wondered what they would do in those rare years when Annunciation falls on Easter Day, and I have found my answer in the “Liturgics” of the late Archbishop Averky (Taushev), a commentary on the Russian Orthodox Typikon now available online in a preliminary English translation (http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/liturgics_averky_e.htm):

    “If Annunciation coincides with Pascha (Kyriopascha), at the beginning of Matins, upon entering the temple, before the Great Litany, the troparion of the Annunciation is sung; the canon of Pascha is combined with the canon of the Annunciation; after the sixth ode the Gospel of the feast of the Annunciation is read; and at the praises are added stichera of the Annunciation.”

    (And see here: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Kyriopascha)

    It strikes me that there is definitely a case to be made for this approach to liturgical “occurrence”. Anglicans, with their traditional theological emphasis on the Incarnation, ought, it would seem, to like the idea of observing feasts on the day when they (are traditionally believed to have) actually happened. (This is a sidebar to the discussion we had a while ago, Bosco, about the problem of Christmas in the southern hemisphere.)

    I half wonder if the BCP couldn’t be made to work according to a similar system of blended propers. The obvious problem is that the BCP gives so few propers for each Sunday and feast day… at least in comparison with the Eastern rites! Adding a collect as a memorial is hardly dramatic. Much of the blended character would have to be communicated by the selection of hymns or anthems, and perhaps by the juxtaposition of customary ceremonial actions.

    Oddly enough, this practice was already followed to some extent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Church of England. Charles Wheatly’s (1686-1724) “Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer” notes that the BCP does not give instruction in how “concurrences” (as he calls them) are to be dealt with. He notes that some ministers will ignore saints’ feasts altogether if they fall on a Sunday (unless, as happens in the civil-calendar Office lectionary, the feast will be represented by the second lessons at Mattins and Evensong). But he says that the more general practice is for red letter days to trump ordinary Sundays, for feasts of the Lord to trump saints’ days, etc. He raises the case of Annunciation in “Passion-week” as a special problem. (Wheatly’s shares the fascinating observation that in some churches, if a feast day falls on an ordinary Sunday and the feast has an Apocryphal lesson in the daily Office, the lesson of the Sunday will be substituted, since the Church has appointed only “canonical” scriptures for Sundays.) Wheatly suggests that different solutions will be reached in different churches — and he quotes the Preface “Concerning the Service of the Church” where all instances of doubt are referred to the Ordinary (in most cases the diocesan bishop).

    But although he notes that it is the practice in the Roman rite, Wheatly confirms that the BCP nowhere allows a feast day’s removal to another date if it should coincide with a greater festival (pp. 190-91 in the Oxford edn of 1810, which is on Google Books).

    1. Jesse, you know how I love these discussions.

      I doubt that batting ideas around here, on the edge of cyberspace, will alter the formal rules of Western Christianity – but there is much to commend your points.

      I regularly try to stress that the contemporary tendency to slimline a service down to one very narrow “theme” is mistaken. A service is pebbles cast onto a pond – with some ripples intersecting, and with different people finding connections in different places. I do not like more than one collect at the start of the Eucharist, but at other points, and in the offices, I do not see this as a problem.

      The ancient belief that important events happened on the same date is little known to many. One theory of the origin of the 25 December date for Christmas is the incarnation’s dating to the same as the crucifixion, 25 March.

      People can find the discussion on Southern Hemisphere Christmas Jesse refers to here.

      Thanks, as always. And blessings.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.