Beloved in Christ,
On Hidden Crosses and Images
In our first reading for this Sunday’s mass, the Prophet Isaiah says, “See, I am doing something new!” (43:19). Indeed, God is doing something new in our lives. As we approach Holy Week, we see “new” vistas to liturgical worship to assist us in navigating the sacred paschal mystery that unfolds. One of those liturgical acts is the tradition of covering crosses and images from this Sunday (in the past, the church read the Passion narrative on the fifth Sunday in lent) until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and until the beginning of the Easter Vigil respectively.
Why do we veil our crosses and images in Church from this Sunday? The custom dates back to a ninth-century tradition in Germany when they cover the altar with a “hungertuch” (hunger cloth) at the beginning of lent to signify to the primarily illiterate laity that lent has commenced. Symbolically and spiritually, it instructs us about the hiddenness of Christ and the hiddenness of our lives in this world until final redemption when the Lord removes the veil. Then we get to know and see the beauty of our Lord and our lives fully (1 Cor 13: 12). For practical purposes, the veiling of crosses and images adds to the intensity of our preparations for the Easter celebrations. When we walk into the church on Sunday and during weekday masses, we shall notice the hiddenness of the beauty and the contemplation they inspire. Hiding crosses and images get us to listen more attentively to the proclamation of the passion of Christ narratives from the Gospel.
Will you do the same at home? Will your family cover all the crosses and sacred images simultaneously as the church? It will be a pious tradition to pass on to your children. It will be striking to unveil the hidden beauty as a family just before Easter Vigil.
This Sunday, at the 10:30 am Mass, we celebrate the third scrutiny for our Elect Sadie Fleming. We also pray for candidates, Kylie Tobias and Steve Gump. We continue to accompany them with our prayers.
Fr. Bernard, OP