The Canticle of the Passion, or the “Passion Verses” as we say, is a specifically Dominican devotion traditionally sung on the Fridays of Lent. A compilation of texts from Sacred Scripture relating to the sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, this devotion was revealed by the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Catherine de Ricci, a cloistered Dominican Tertiary of the 16th century, after the Saint experienced the first of her many ecstasies sharing Our Lord’s Passion.
“Our Lady is said to have desired Catherine, when she revealed this Canticle to her, to spread it through the convent as a form of prayer and contemplation supremely pleasing to our Lord. The venerable confessor, Fra Timoteo, wrote it out in full at the saint’s dictation and submitted it for the approval of the Order. Padre Francesco di Castiglione had then become general, and he was not satisfied with allowing its use in San Vincenzio. By a circular letter to all monasteries of the Province he ordered it to be placed amongst the regular devotions and forms of prayer peculiar to the Dominicans; and it has remained celebrated amongst us, under the title Canticle of the Passion, as a monument to the tender love of our great Dominican saint, Catherine de Ricci, for her crucified Jesus” (from St Catherine de’ Ricci : Her Life, Her Letters, Her Community by Florence Mary Capes, p. 76-77).
The Canticle of the Passion is a good example of how Dominican devotions flow from and lead to the Liturgy. Like the Liturgy, the Canticle is woven out of Sacred Scripture and sung to the haunting tones of our Dominican chant, leading us to enter more deeply into the solemn mysteries of this season of Passiontide and Holy Week.
The above is a recording of the Canticle of the Passion as we sang it during this Lent. (The chant we sing in Latin; we have added English subtitles along with pictorial meditations from sacred art.)