Sundays in Lent.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 March 2022

If you’re observing Lent, and fasting in some form during that time, you actually get Sundays off.

Really. I know; most people aren’t aware of this, and think we have to fast every day of Lent; all 40 days. But Ash Wednesday is actually 46 days before Easter Sunday—which means there are six extra days. Days which aren’t part of the 40 days. Those are the Sundays. We don’t fast on feast days. For most Christians Sunday is our Sabbath, and Sabbath is always a feast day.

So you get little holidays from your Lenten fast. Gave up cocaine? This Sunday, do a few rails.

Kidding. But if you’ve given up something which hasn’t enslaved you (and be honest with yourself and others about this!), go ahead and partake this Sunday. If you’ve given up desserts, feel free to have a little something with your dinner. Try not to overcompensate though!

Since all these Sundays are little breaks from fasting, they can feel a little extra special during Lent. Over the centuries Christians have treated ’em as extra-special days. Even given them special names. And when I, or other Christians, refer to these names, sometimes curious Christians wanna know what that’s all about. Is there anything important we’re meant to do or remember about these Sundays? Nah, not really.

The names come from the first words of the prayer book or missal, used in liturgical churches as part of their services. They’re the first word of the first prayer in the order of service. The traditional names of the Sundays in Lent come from the first words of the German Lutheran prayer book read on that day. Generally it comes from the Latin translation of the psalms they’re reading.

  1. INVOCABIT SUNDAY is the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday. The name comes from the Psalm 91.15: Invocabit ad me, et ego exaudiam eum, “He will call upon me, and I will answer him.” (The Nova Vulgata, Roman Catholics’ official bible, uses the synonym clamabit, but the prayer books quote one of the previous Vulgate editions.)
  2. REMINISCERE SUNDAY is the second. Comes from Psalm 24.6: Reminiscere miserationum tuarum, Domine, “Remember your mercy, LORD.”
  3. OCULI SUNDAY comes from Psalm 24.15: Oculi mei semper ad Dominum, “My eyes are always on the LORD.”
  4. LAETARE SUNDAY is also called Rose Sunday or Mothering Sunday, and is a day for Christians to remember their moms—both the women who raised them, and the elders in their churches who encourage them. Comes from Isaiah 66.10, Laetare cum Jerusalem, “Rejoice with Jerusalem.”
  5. There’s some controversy about what to do on the fifth Sunday of Lent. Historically it’s been PASSION SUNDAY, as Christians used to spend two weeks, not just Holy Week, in remembering Jesus’s suffering. So there’d be Passion Sunday one week, Palm Sunday the next. But more recently churches combine the two into Palm Sunday, and the fifth Sunday is simply another Sunday, sometimes called JUDICA SUNDAY from Psalm 42:1, Judica me, Deus, “Judge me, God.”
  6. PALM SUNDAY begins Holy Week or Passion Week; it’s the week Jesus died, so there are special memorial days throughout.
  7. EASTER SUNDAY isn’t really the last Sunday of Lent; it’s the day after. Lent ended on Holy Saturday. Now it’s Easter for 49 days till Pentecost.

As you can see, there’s not a lot of uniquely Eastery things about the Sundays in Lent; just unique names. Churches vary about how they’re gonna observe them. Some liturgial churches don’t even bring up the particular names for them; they’re just another of the Sundays in Lent. And of course if you don’t go to a liturgical church, it’s just another Sunday… till Palm Sunday.