Veiled Images

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By Father Stephen Battey

Recently, someone shared a photo of a poorly veiled statue which looked more like something that one would find in a comedy film, rather than a Catholic church. Funny as it might have been, it really does beg the question, why do we cover the crucifixes and statues with purple cloth during passiontide?

The first reason, it seems to me, is to signal a change. Walking into a church for the first time after many of the sacred images are veiled is striking to us. It catches our attention, and invites us to enter into things a little more purposefully. It reminds us that we have moved into the last days of the Lenten season, and we would do well to refocus our efforts of penance and preparation as Easter draws ever closer.

After the initial intrigue of the covered images subsides however, a careful eye will notice that there is something that is left uncovered…the Stations of the Cross. Is it the case that they didn’t want to burden someone with fashioning fourteen additional purple veils? Certainly not. The Stations of the Cross are purposely left on display because at this point in the Lenten season our focus should be especially devoted to Christ’s passion.

On Good Friday, the crucifix is ceremoniously uncovered. This draws our attention to that particular saving moment of Christ’s passion, allowing for the Cross to be venerated during the service and adored in the hours that follow. Only at the Easter Vigil, in which we rejoice in the empty tomb of our Lord does the rest of the church return to its former glory.

Is it a tiring process to veil the statues and crucifix of our parishes each year? Most assuredly. But it seems to me that the veiling of images still has a way of capturing our attention and imagination, such that it draws us into the mysteries of Holy Week such that it’s a worthy practice to consider adopting!

“Ask the Newly Ordained” features Fathers Brian Morris, Joseph Brice and Stephen Battey — who respond to questions about the faith from Rhode Island Catholic readers. Have a question? Ask the Newly Ordained! Readers may submit questions by sending them to Editor@thericatholic.com.