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AFTER having proposed the forty-days' Fast of Jesus in the Desert to the meditation of the Faithful, during the first four weeks of Lent, the Holy Church gives the two weeks, which still remain before Easter, to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to the great Day of the immolation of the Lamb, without their having prepared for it by compassionating with him in the Sufferings he endured in their stead.

The most ancient Sacramentaries and Antiphonaries of the several Churches attest, by the Prayers, the Lessons, and the whole Liturgy of these two weeks, that the Passion of our Lord is now the one sole thought of the Christian world. During Passion Week, a Saint's Feast, if it occur, will be kept; but Passion Sunday admits no Feast, however solemn it may be; and even on those which are kept during the days intervening between Passion and Palm Sundays, there is always made a commemoration of the Passion, and the holy Images are not allowed to be uncovered,

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first of these two Weeks; its ceremonies and rites have always been the same as those of the four preceding ones. We, therefore, refer the reader to the following Chapter, in which we treat of the mysteries peculiar to Passiontide. The second week, on the contrary, furnishes us with abundant historical details; for there is no portion of the Liturgical Year, which has interested the Christian world so much as this, or which has given rise to such fervent manifestations of piety.

This week was held in great veneration even as early as the 3rd century, as we learn from St. Denis, Bishop of Alexandria, who lived at that time. In the following century, we find St. John Chrysostom calling it the Great Week: “not,” says the holy Doctor, “ that it has more days in it than other weeks, “or that its days are made up of more hours than “other days; but we call it Great, because of the great Mysteries which are then celebrated.” We find it called also by other names: the Painful Week (Hebdomada Poenosa), on account of the Sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the fatigue required from us in celebrating them; the Week of Indulgence, because sinners are then received to penance; and, lastly, Holy Week, in allusion to the holiness of the Mysteries which are commemorated during these seven days. This last name is the one, under which it most generally goes with us; and the very days themselves are, in many countries, called by the same name, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday.

The severity of the Lenten Fast is increased during these its last days; the whole energy of the spirit of penance is now brought out. Even with us, the

i It would be out of place to enter here on a discussion with regard to the name Mediana, under which title we find Passion Sunday mentioned both in ancient Liturgies and in Canon Law.

2 Epist. ad Basilidem. Canon I. 3 Hom. xxx, in Genes.

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dispensation which allows the use of eggs ceases towards the middle of this Week. The Eastern Churches have kept up far more of the ancient traditions; and their observance of abstinence, during these days, is far more severe than ours. The Greeks call this week Xérophagia, that is, the week when no other food is allowed but that which is dry, such as bread, water, salt, dried fruits, raw vegetables : every kind of seasoning is forbidden. In the early ages, Fasting, during Holy Week, was carried to the utmost limits that human nature could endure. We learn from St. Epiphanius, that there were some of the Christians who observed a strict fast from Monday morning to cock-crow of Easter Sunday. Of course, it must have been very few of the Faithful who could go so far as this. Many passed two, three, and even four consecutive days, without tasting any food; but the general practice was to fast from Maundy Thursday evening to Easter morning. Many Christians in the East, and in Russia, observe this fast, even in these times:—would that such severe penance were always accompanied by a firm faith and union with the Church, out of which, the merit of such penitential works is of no avail for salvation !

Another of the ancient practices of Holy Week were the long hours spent, during the night, in the Churches. On Maundy Thursday, after having celebrated the divine mysteries in remembrance of the Last Supper, the faithful continued a long time in prayer. The night between Friday and Saturday was spent in one uninterrupted vigil, in honour of our Lord's Burial. But the longest of all these vigils was that of Saturday, which was kept up till Easter Sunday morning: it was one in which the whole of the people

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joined: they assisted at the final preparation of the Catechumens, as also at the administration of Baptism, nor did they leave the Church until after the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, which was not over till sunrise. 1

Cessation from servile work was, for a long time, an obligation during Holy Week. The civil law united with that of the Church in order to bring about this solemn rest from toil and business, which so eloquently expresses the state of mourning of the christian world. The thought of the sufferings and death of Jesus was the one pervading thought: the divine Offices and Prayer were the sole occupation of the people: and, indeed, all the strength of the body was needed for the support of the austerities of fasting and abstinence. We can readily understand what an impression was made upon men's minds, during the whole of the rest of the year, by this universal suspension of the ordinary routine of life. Moreover, when we call to mind how, for five full weeks, the severity of Lent had waged war on the sensual appetites, we can imagine the simple and honest joy, wherewith was welcomed the feast of Easter, which brought both the regeneration of the soul, and respite to the body.

In the preceding volume, we mentioned the laws of the Theodosian Code, which forbade all law business during the forty days preceding Easter. This law of Gratian and Theodosius, which was published in 380, was extended by Theodosius, in 389; this new decree forbade all pleadings during the seven days before, and the seven days after, Easter. We meet with several allusions to this then recent law, in the Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, and in the Sermons of St. Augustine. In virtue of this decree, each of these fifteen days was considered, as far as the courts of law were concerned, as a Sunday.

1 Const. Apost. lib. i. cap. xviii.

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But christian Princes were not satisfied with the mere suspension of human justice during these days, which are so emphatically days of mercy; they would, moreover, pay homage, by an external act, to the fatherly goodness of God, who has deigned to pardon a guilty world, through the merits of the death of his Son. The Church was on the point of giving Reconciliation to repentant sinners, who had broken the chains of sin, whereby they were held captives : christian Princes were ambitious to imitate this their Mother, and they ordered that prisoners should be loosened from their chains, that the prisons should be thrown open, and that freedom should be restored to those who had fallen under the sentence of human tribunals. The only exception made was that of criminals, whose freedom would have exposed their families or society to great danger. The name of Theodosius stands prominent in these acts of mercy. We are told by St. John Chrysostom," that this Emperor sent letters of pardon to the several cities, ordering the release of prisoners, and granting life to those that had been condemned to death, and all this in order to sanctify the days preceding the Easter Feast. The last Emperors made a law of this custom, as we find in one of St. Leo's Sermons, where he thus speaks of their clemency: “The Roman Emperors “have long observed this holy practice. In honour of “our Lord's Passion and Resurrection, they humbly “ withold the exercise of their sovereign justice, and, “ laying aside the severity of their laws, they grant

pardon to a great number of criminals. Their in“tention in this is to imitate the divine goodness by “ their own exercise of clemency during these days, “when the world owes its salvation to the divine "mercy. Let, then, the christian people imitate their

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1 Homil. in magn. Hebdom. Homil. xxx. in Genes. Homil. vi. ad popul. Antioch.

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