Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today the Church enters what has been traditionally known as Passiontide. During these last two weeks of Lent we focus on the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ in a more intense and vivid way. As the most sacred days of the Church year draw close, we elevate our preparations and make a final renewal of our resolutions.
The custom that would be most familiar to many of us during Passiontide would be the veiling of statues and images. Primarily, this practice developed due to the Gospel on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, which would have always ended with the passage from John 8:59 “So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.” The tension in the Gospel is mounting between Christ and the Jew- ish authorities, and he is forced to withdraw until the time when he would allow himself to be handed over.
But the symbolism goes far deeper, as the divinity of Christ is also increasingly hidden during this time. Throughout the passion, Christ becomes more and more helpless and weak. He is beaten and bloodied beyond recognition, fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah: “Even as many were amazed at him—so marred were his features, beyond that of mortals his appearance, beyond that of human beings,” (Is 52:14) and “He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain, like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him in no esteem” (Is 53:3). It becomes increasingly difficult to believe God could be treated in such a way, that God could be so horribly humiliated. All hints of his glory fade in a dusk that makes way for an even more beautiful dawn.
This hiddenness of Christ, of his divinity, is therefore reflected in the Church. We deny ourselves even the pleasure of beauty in the Church, to focus on the dark reality of our sin and its cost. We deprive ourselves of even the beauty of the saints, because we know they are a reflection of the glorified humanity of Christ. We enter this time of increased penance, so that when, at the Vigil, light conquers darkness and God’s glory shines through, we will appreciate it all the more. As much as we will be excited to eat cookies and chocolate again, we will be all the more excited to once again see the beauty of our Church, which reminds us of the beauty of a world where the Risen Christ is at the center.
As the veils go up in our Church this weekend, may we seek to continue to veil those indulgences in our lives. In these final days of Lent, may we recommit ourselves to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with increasing devotion. As we prepare for the most sacred feasts of our faith, may we hand our wills over to God as Christ did, knowing when Easter comes, like Christ the hidden glory in our hearts will radiantly shine forth.
Yours in Christ,