The Covering of Statues in Passiontide

Church

As our celebration of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection draw closer, we begin to see in many churches the devotional practice of covering statues and images in purple cloth during the final two weeks of Lent, otherwise known as Passiontide. It is one of many ways in which we tangibly sense the drama of faith and physically enter into the Paschal Mystery.

Although there is much debate about the origins of the custom of draping crosses and statues, some suggest that the practice invites us to experience the passion of Christ as he journeys to Jerusalem and his death on the cross. The sign of hope — the cross — is hidden from us and the reminders of the resurrection and the saints of God gathered around the Lamb are veiled from us. Our senses are deprived of the lush beauty of sign and symbol. We cannot help but realise that something foreboding is drawing near.

The veiling of images is but one of the many ways in which our senses will be awakened in these last days. The red vestments, green branches and the sweet sounds of Hosanna Filio David will ignite a spirit of hope on Palm Sunday. The lush flowers and white vestments of Holy Thursday will excite us. Our barren churches and somber Good Friday liturgy will sadden us. Yet in the darkness of night, a light will shine forth on Holy Saturday and will enlighten our churches and hearts to the glory of the resurrection as we hear the marvelous Easter proclamation, the Exultet.

All of these signs and symbols remind us that our faith is incarnational. We are drawn both body and spirit into the great mystery of faith as we shall some day, by God’s grace, be raised up on the last day. For this we pray each Sunday: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

-Don Beyers, Acquisitions Editor

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