Sunday, 25 March 2012


Today in our parish Church, the statues and crucifixes were veiled in purple for Passiontide. 
I have always loved this, since I was a child.  

I was told - and I have no idea if this is true or pious legend, and nor do I care - that it was because of the final line of today’s Gospel (in the traditional Mass): 'Jesus hid Himself, and went out from the temple.'

What I do know is that it makes the symbolism of the progressive unveiling of the Cross on Good Friday particularly potent; and then on Easter Sunday, when the statues are all unveiled, the glory of the Risen Christ’s CHurch shines forth with a new splendour.

It is a sad reflection on the heady days of liturgical reform that in the drive to simplify the Mass, many churches abandoned this time-honoured tradition.  The irony is that the simplification left the liturgy so denuded of symbolism and ritual that people had to start to invent new things to fill the void.  Many of these were far poorer than the traditions they replaced, and some - such as putting sand in the holy water stoups during Lent - were quite wrong-headed.

But at least in our Church the Passiontide veils live on; poignant reminders of the sombre aspect of this season, but also hinting at the glory to be revealed at Easter.


Left-footer said...

Here, in Poland, everything is as it was, veiled statues, Exposition on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during Lent.

One thing here which I never came across in England - as the Sacrament is taken out on Good Friday, one of the servers has a wooden rattle which produces a sound like dry bones clattering together, chilling and immensely sorrowful.

Ben Trovato said...

It's good to hear that Poland is still practicing in the traditional way.

I have come across the wooden rattles in England: at the Oratory, I fancy. Sounded more like football rattles than bry bones, on that occasion: perhaps the servers were over-enthusiastic!

But again, the lack of bells during the Good Friday 'Mass of the Presanctified' makes the Easter Bells all the more effective!

Mark Lambert said...

I understand that the veiling is in fact in the Jewish tradition of mourning. In a Jewish house, all the pictures of the deceased are covered. I knew a Jew who once announced this upon visiting a Catholic Church at Passiontide "You have turned this Church into a Jewish house in mourning". There are so many Jewish echoes in our faith that we have forgotten!

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks for that: very interesting, and I hadn't known it. before. But it makes perfect sense to me.

And as you say, there are many forgotten Jewish echoes in our Faith. I think it's a shame we no longer call it 'the Purification' as, again, it refers directly to our Judaic roots.