Monday, 21 March 2016

The Veiling of Crosses and Holy Statues

The custom of the veiling of crosses and holy statues comes from the passage in the Gospel John 11:54: 'Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews'. After raising Lazarus from the dead, the Jews were planning on putting Jesus to death and so He remained hidden.

The practise has its origins in the 9th century in Germany where at the beginning of Lent the Altar was entirely covered by a violet cloth called 'Hungertuch' and removed on the Wednesday before Easter when the reading of Mark 15:28 was proclaimed "The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." 

During the Middle Ages also statues were covered at the beginning of Lent and it was only in the 17th century that the veiling was limited to Passiontide.

Today the tradition is still alive in some Countries like England and after the Vigil Mass of the fifth Sunday of Lent (also known as Passion Sunday) and in many more Churches, after the mass of 'The Lord's Supper'  images of Jesus are covered. His divinity was not shown during his passion and death and the veiling reminds us of this.

Statues and Crosses, with the exception of the 'Stations of the Cross', are hidden under a plain violet cloth, (red cloth is sometimes used to symbolise blood and martyrdom) and in some places even removed.

Statues of Saints around the Church are also covered out of respect for the Lord as it would be considered improper for the servants to show themselves if the Master is hiding.

The face of Jesus is hidden away from us for a brief moment and what we are left with are the words of Isaiah 2 Like a sapling he grew up before him, like a root in arid ground. He had no form or charm to attract us, no beauty to win our hearts;
3 he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard.
4 Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God;
5 whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises. 

And the words of Jesus himself from the Gospel that 'he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up'

The violet cloth will then be removed just before the Easter Vigil when we re-live the night in which the Splendour of the King destroyed death once and for all and His divinity not only became visible but also accessible to us!


  1. Our Pastor veiled everything this week -- interestingly, the stations as well :(

    I shared this on our Parish Facebook Page; hoping they include it in next week's bulletin - it is so informative. Thanks Chiara!

  2. Thank you for the beautiful little history lesson. We uave so many beautiful traditions in the church,it is always nice to know the "why" behind what we do but also lovely to have the roots of certain customs too!