We celebrated the Fifth Sunday of Lent three days ago, a Sunday that marks the beginning of the Passiontide and not passion Sunday. From the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the crosses and all other images and pictures of saints are veiled with a piece of purple cloth. This is a tradition in the Church that dates back into centuries; we are so proud of the rich heritage of the Church. However, the day for this Lenten veiling may differ in dioceses. Still, it must be within the Passiontide (From vespers of the Fifth Sunday and before vespers of passion Sunday), but the significance remains the same.
The Church does not just do things; she has reasons for everything. The veiling of the crosses and other images in the Church during the Fifth Sunday of Lent till Good Friday is significant. Historically, “Some authors say there was a practical reason for this practice insofar as the often-illiterate faithful needed a way to know it was Lent. Others, however, maintain that it was a remnant of the ancient practice of public penance in which the penitents were ritually expelled from the church at the beginning of Lent. After the ritual of public penance fell into disuse — but the entire congregation symbolically entered the order of penitents by receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday — it was no longer possible to expel them from the church. Rather, the altar or ‘Holy of Holies’ was shielded from view until they were reconciled to God at Easter.”
The Church has some mystical and spiritual explanation for this old tradition in the Church. In the Crosses and other images’ veiling, the Church sees and reminds herself of the humiliation he subjected himself to for the salvation of the world. She reminds herself of how Jesus, the Lord of Lords, hid from mere mortals and left the Temple when they tried to stone him (Jn.8:59). He hid not because of fear; he is the same one who had driven the people out of the Temple with authority (Jn.2:15). In the veiling of the Crosses, the Church recalls his total submission to weakness and humiliation. In his passion, his divinity and even his humanity were hidden. He was like no man but a worm (Psalm 22:6).
At his death, the veil of separation was torn into two, making way for everyone to see and meet with him (Mk.15:38). At the resurrection, the cloth that covered him was rolled up (Jn.20:6-7). Therefore, when the Church veils the Crosses, it reminds us of how his divinity and even his humanity seemed to be swallowed up in sorrow, but at Easter, the cloth is folded, and victory is ours.
Other images are also covered because if the glory of the master is covered, his servants should not appear or take the glory. So, as you see the veiling of the Crosses and other images in your Parishes, know exactly what the Church is doing.