Fifth Sunday of Lent
Our Lenten season has undergone yet another shift.
Today we enter Passiontide, a time of mourning as we enter more deeply into Jesus’ sacrifice.
Not all churches do this anymore,
but this is the time when statues and crosses are covered with violet cloth.
There are varying explanations of this.
The Catholic Encyclopedia for School and Home observes that the veiling of sacred objects
has a general precedent in the Old Testament use of the temple veil (Hebrews 9:3, among others),
which kept the Holy of Holies hidden from common view.
In Christian churches, veiling was an outgrowth of the time
when people did public penance for serious sins, such as adultery, murder or denying Christ.
Initially, penitents were excluded from the church during Lent.
Later they were allowed to come to church, but a veil was drawn across the front of the church during Lent to indicate symbolically that sinners deserve exclusion from the church.
Eventually, the veiling was confined to images and limited to Passiontide.
Another explanation, taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909 edition, is that
“the crosses are veiled because Christ during this time
no longer walked openly among the people, but hid Himself.
Hence in the papal chapel the veiling formerly took place at the words of the Gospel:
‘Jesus autem abscondebat se’ [Jesus hid Himself, John 12:36].
Another reason is added by Durandus [a liturgical writer from the 1200’s],
namely that Christ’s divinity was hidden when He arrived at the time of His suffering and death.
The images of the saints also are covered
because it would seem improper for the servants to appear
when the Master himself is hidden.”
Part of the purpose of Lent, especially these last two weeks (Passiontide),
is to enter into the mystery of our salvation.
Before Christ died for us, a veil separated us from God (see Hebrews 10:20).
The veiling of crosses and religious pictures
allows us to enter into what it was like before Christ came,
what it was like to be separated from God.
This sense of separation heightens our sense of being brought back to God,
of being brought into intimacy with Him, when the veils are removed.
After we commemorate Jesus’ death on Good Friday,
in a sense, we re-enact the tearing of the Temple veil that revealed the Holy of Holies
(Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45)
by unveiling the crucifixes.
When we come to celebrate the resurrection,
the other images will be uncovered as we rejoice, in communion with the saints,
over the victory Christ won for us.
By Your help, we beseech You, Lord our God,
may we walk eagerly in that same charity
with which, out of love for the world,
Your Son handed Himself over to death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for Mass)
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (God predicts a new covenant)
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-15 “Create a clean heart in me, O God”
Hebrews 5:7-9 (Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered)
+John 12:20-33 (Jesus predicts His death and urges us to follow Him)
Our attachments cost us dear.
They cut us off from Eden’s bliss,
they bound us tight in slavery,
in Egypt’s curse–
God pulled us out.
We dove back in.
We’d rather die to freedom
than to self.
Our hearts are hard.
Our loves ensnare.
God meets us there.
His light falls on the path ahead
the path He breaks for us…
Son though He was,
He learned obedience through what He suffered
He cries aloud!
He offered prayers and supplications
with loud cries and tears
to the One who was able to save Him from death
…and He was heard.
Sin-bonds were rent.
New covenant was forged
in Precious Blood
writ on our hearts.
We follow hard upon His trail
our steps in His,
wants torn away,
to lasting life…
attached to Him.
(if not, death wins)
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
We may not look at our pleasures to go to Heaven in featherbeds;
it is not the way,
for our Lord Himself went thither with great pain, and by many tribulations,
which was the path wherein He walked thither,
and the servant may not look to be in better case than his Master.
–St. Thomas More
Our break from pleasure hurts
–but not for long–
and glory lasts!
What pleasures or attachments get you into spiritual trouble?
What desires get you defensive when they’re not indulged?
How does your perspective change when you compare them with Jesus’ poverty and Passion?
What good will your passing pleasures do you in eternity?