It looks strange that during the most sacred time of year we cover everything that is beautiful in our churches, even the crucifix. Shouldn’t we be looking at the painful event at Calvary while we listen to the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday?
While it may appear contrary to cover statues and images during the final weeks of Lent, the Church recommends this practice to elevate our senses and build within us a longing for Easter Sunday. Covering of crucifix and statutes is a tradition that should not only be done in our local parish but can also be a fruitful activity for the “domestic church” to practice.
In that case, crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.
This is the current practice of the Church, but covering Holy images from the Fifth Sunday of Lent onward is little compared to what was once practiced. For example, in Germany, there was a tradition to cover the altar from view throughout all of Lent.
But why go through such height to cover up images that are designed to raise our hearts and minds toward heaven?
First of all, we use veils to remind us of the special time that we are in. Because when we walk into the church and notice that all the images are covered, we immediately know that something is different. These last two weeks of Lent are supposed to be a time of immediate preparation for the Sacred Triduum and these veils are a forceful reminder to get ready for it.
In a second thought, the veils help us to focus our attention on the words being said at Mass. When we listen to the Passion narrative, our senses are allowed to focus on the striking words from the Gospel and then we would be forced to truly enter into the scene.
Thirdly, the Church uses veils to produce a high sense of anticipation for Easter Sunday. This is further accomplished when you attend daily Mass and see the veils each day. And I believe you don’t want them to be there because they are hiding some very beautiful images.
And here lies the whole point, the veils are not meant to be there forever. The images need to be unveiled because it is unnatural for them to be covered.
The unveiling before the Easter Vigil is a good reminder of our own life on earth. We find ourselves in a “veiled” world, in exile from our true home. It is only through our own death that the veil is taken off and we are finally able to see the beauty of everything in our lives.
So families are encouraged to imitate this practice and cover prominent religious images in their homes. Because it is a beautiful tradition to pass down to our children, who will be fascinated by it and it will make this time of the year truly special for them.