The third division of Lent begins with Passion Sunday; from this day on, the Church meditates exclusively on the sufferings of Christ. The Christian should also do this, and increase his practice of mortification and self-denial. From Passion Sunday on, all the crucifixes are covered, or veiled, every joyous thought should be set aside, and our minds turned to that cross which is to be erected upon Golgotha. We should meditate upon our Redeemer, Who in His sufferings concealed His divinity and clothed Himself entirely in the garb of an embassador. The crucifix is covered with violet to remind the faithful that their hearts should be penetrated with sorrow at the sufferings of Christ, and with contrition for their sins. In the office of the day the Prophecies of Jeremiah are read, the Gloria is omitted, also the psalm Judica at the beginning of Mass, unless a feast of our Lord or the Saints is celebrated.
FEASTS OF SAINTS.
I. Formerly the feast of a Saint was not permitted to be celebrated during Lent, because the Church wished the faithful to meditate on the Passion of Christ and awaken a penitential spirit; at present it is only Holy Week which excludes these feasts. During the rest of Lent several feasts are now celebrated. Among the most important are:
(1.) The Feast of St. Joseph on the 19th of March, which was celebrated in the Eastern Church since the ninth century, but it is only two hundred years ago that its celebration became universal in the Western Church. This feast shows us the important part that St. Joseph took in the work of Redemption, for, as foster father of Jesus, as support and guardian of the Holy Family, he, next to Mary, had the greatest share in this work. Therefore, after Mary, he is our greatest intercessor with God. He is especially venerated as the patron of the dying, because he was found worthy to die in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Let us honor him so that he may nourish the work of Redemption in our hearts, and help us in completing it by a happy death. In the first centuries his feast was not celebrated, because then only the feasts of the martyrs were celebrated and principally because the celebration of his feast might lead the ignorant to believe that Joseph was the real father of Jesus.
(2.) The Feast of the Annunciation, March 25th, is one of the oldest feasts of the Church; it is a feast of our Lord, as well as of the Blessed Virgin. It is in commemoration of the moment when the Angel announced to the Blessed Virgin that she was to become the mother of God. It shows us Mary's intimate participation in the redemption of mankind. The Christian should call on Mary to assist him in amending his life. According to an old tradition, on this day Adam was created, Christ became man, and died, and Mary attained to the dignity of Mother of God, therefore we should honor her more than all the other Saints. To the mystery of this day woman owes her freedom from the oppression and contempt with which she was treated in heathen times. The exalted dignity of Mary elevated the honor of womanhood. We are reminded of the mystery of this feast three times a day by the ringing of the Angelus. This custom, it is true, was instituted only in the fourteenth century by Pope John XXII; but how very appropriate it is to remind us three times a day of the Incarnation of Christ, the Son of God, who did so much for us, and whom we should not forget in the toils and labor of the day, but offer all to the Lord in gratitude.
(3.) The feast of the Seven Dolors, celebrated on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday, was instituted in the fifteenth century in expiation of the crimes of the Hussite image breakers, and other atrocities. It represents the Blessed Virgin as partaking in the work of Redemption and admonishes us like her, to meditate on the sufferings of Jesus. It is called the Feast of the Seven Dolors, because it reminds us not only of the sorrows of Mary at the foot of the cross, but also of her constant participation in the sufferings of Jesus from His birth to His crucifixion. Even in the thirteenth century the Order of the Servites divided the sufferings of Mary into the following mysteries:
1st. The prophecy of Simeon in the Temple,
2nd. The flight into Egypt,
3rd. The three days loss of the boy Jesus in the Temple,
4th. The sight of her Divine Son carrying His heavy cross,
5th. The Crucifixion,
6th. The taking down from the Cross,
7th. The Burial of Jesus.