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Why do some churches veil their statues this week?

This ritual is a visual and mental preparation for Christ’s Passion.

As you walked into church for Mass this past weekend, you may have noticed something unusual.

Beginning on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, many churches cover their statues, crucifixes, and sacred images—except for the Stations of the Cross—in purple cloth. The veil on the crucifix will remain until Good Friday, at which time it will be removed as part of the liturgy. The other purple cloths remain until the Easter Vigil.

What is the meaning of this somber ritual?

In the older church calendar, this Sunday is called Passion Sunday. The week is called Passion Week, and the entire section of Lent including this week and Holy Week—Passiontide.

The focus of these two weeks is completely upon the impending Passion of Our Lord. By temporarily depriving us of the consolation of our beautiful images, the veils sharpen our focus and help us to enter more deeply into the sorrow and austerity of this time. Seeing only the Stations of the Cross, we more readily direct our thoughts to the Passion.

The Stations of the Cross are the only images left unveiled during Passiontide (photo: PawełS/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The veils also remind us that Christ hid His divinity in His Passion, becoming the Man of Sorrows, disfigured and beaten for our sins. He is soon going to be taken away from us, veiled in a shroud upon His death and hidden until He rises again on Easter Sunday.

The “hiding” of Christ is emphasized by today’s gospel from the older rite of the Mass. After Jesus said that “before Abraham came to be, I am”—therefore declaring Himself to be God—the Jews tried to stone Him. But the Gospel continues:

“Jesus hid Himself, and went out from the temple.”
—John 8:59

You can extend the beautiful tradition of the Passiontide veils into your own home by veiling your crucifixes, statues, and images. Seeing the veils daily can help us enter even more deeply into the spirit which Holy Mother Church inculcates in us at this holy time of year.

This lifelike Crown of Thorns is another beautiful way to bring the Passion of Our Lord to your mind and heart. Realistic and beautifully crafted, this 6” crown can be displayed on your mantelpiece, in a prayer space, or anywhere you can easily see it. Combined with the veiled statues, it is a powerful visual reminder of the sufferings Our Lord endured for us. Available today at The Catholic Company!

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