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date: 21 October 2020


  • Kurt von Fischer
  •  and Werner Braun


The story of the Crucifixion as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew (xxvi–xxvii), Mark (xiv–xv), Luke (xxii–xxiii) and John (xviii–xix). In the Roman liturgy the Passion texts are recited as Gospel lessons during Mass on Palm Sunday (Matthew), Tuesday of Holy Week (Mark), Wednesday of Holy Week (Luke) and Good Friday (John). At a very early date special lesson tones were developed for reciting the Passion, and polyphonic settings of its texts have been made since the 15th century.

Kurt von Fischer

The earliest report of the use of the Passion in a religious ceremony is that of the pilgrim Egeria who visited Jerusalem in the 4th century and described the services held there during Holy Week. These readings were essentially commemorative in nature, while those in the Western Church (according to patristic theology) took on a didactic function as Gospel lessons. Indeed, Augustine emphasized the need for a solemn delivery (‘Solemniter legitur passio, solemniter celebratur’). About the middle of the 5th century Pope Leo the Great decreed that the St Matthew Passion should be read during the Mass for Palm Sunday and the Mass for the Wednesday in Holy Week, while that of St John should be read on Good Friday. Some 200 years later the St Matthew Passion was replaced by that of St Luke during the Wednesday Mass, and from the 10th century it became the custom in the Roman Church to sing the Passion according to St Mark on the Tuesday of Holy Week. In the Gallican, Ambrosian, Mozarabic and southern Italian liturgies the texts were allotted somewhat differently and sometimes only single verses from the Passion were read....

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