This feast occurs on the Tuesday after Septuagesima (double major). Its object is to commemorate the prolonged prayer which Christ offered in Gethsemane in our behalf in preparation for His Sacred Passion.
The Office insists on the great importance of prayer. The feast is placed at the beginning of Lent to remind us that the penitential season is above all a time of prayer. The Office probably was composed by Bishop Struzzieri of Todi, at the suggestion of St. Paul of the Cross (d. 1775), and, together with the other six offices by which the mysteries of Christ's Passion are celebrated (see FEAST OF THE PASSION OF CHRIST), was approved by Pius VI.
The hymns were composed by Fatati (Schulte, "Hymnen des röm. Brev."). Outside the Congregation of St. Paul this feast was adopted later than any of the other feasts of the Passion. It is not found in the proprium of Salerno (1793) nor in that of Livorno (1809). Other dioceses took it up only after the city of Rome had adopted it (1831). It has not yet been inserted in the Baltimore Ordo.