Last weekend at Mass, you may have noticed that I was wearing rose vestments (or if
you prefer pink). There are two days a year that these vestments are worn, the third
Sunday of Advent, and the fourth Sunday of Lent. Last weekend was known as “Latare
Sunday,” or “rejoice,” taken from “Isaiah 66:10, “O be joyful, Jerusalem.”
The two days mark turning points during the seasons that precede the two great feasts
of Christmas and Easter, as we are to rejoice at the feasts to come.
This week, as we begin the final two weeks of Lent, we enter into a period formerly
called Passiontide. One of the options during this time is to have all crucifixes and
images covered in veils. This is done until the Triduum, when the statues are uncovered
and the Triduum begins. (Here, we’ll be doing this starting on Palm Sunday, covering
the Cross for Holy Week).
Though optional, I’ve always liked this tradition. As for why we cover them, it’s to make
us think a bit of the meaning of the Cross. We are so used to seeing it we can take it for
granted. Some think it dates back to Germany, when in the 9th century a large cloth
was extended before the altar at the start of Lent, called the “Hungertuch,” or hunger
cloth, which hid the altar from the people during Lent, and was removed during the
reading of the Passion on Wednesday of Holy Week, at the words “the veil of the temple
was rent in two.” It helped illiterate to the faithful how to learn about Lent. Later in the
Middle Ages, the images of crosses and saints were covered at the start of the Lent; it
was at about the 17th century that it was moved to “Passiontide,” the last two weeks of
Lent. Now it is completely optional.
What I like about it is that it helps us to think about how we can take our faith for
granted. The cross especially is something we are so used to seeing; in homes, at our
school, and of course in church. It is always there. But what does it actually mean? The
answer to me is that it is meant to be a way of life. We are meant to have God inform all
that we do. When we look to the cross, we are reminded of how to live. The cross
symbolizes Jesus’ complete trust in the Father and His will. It also symbolizes Jesus’
complete love for you and for me. When we see the crucifix, we should see a reminder
that this is how we are to live. By covering it up, it causes us to think more deeply about
it’s meaning, especially when unveiled come the Easter Triduum.
During these last two weeks of Lent, I’d invite you to again think about the meaning of
the Cross in your life. Remember, Lent is meant to transform us and we emerge on
Easter a better person. As the cross is covered next weekend, perhaps we can think
about how God’s love is covered in our souls by sin; by our actions or inactions; or how
we focus on other worldly things rather than on radiating God’s love. Thinking of the
Cross also challenges us to think about how we can love as Jesus loves – do we think of
others and show them love in actions from our families under our own roofs to our
greater human family, or do we hold back on love or have an asterisk next to the words
“I love you?” Are we selfish or selfless? Loving as Jesus did, giving everything out of
love and forgiving takes work. Use these final two weeks to grow by coming to Mass;
celebrating the sacraments; finding time for personal prayer, and asking yourselves how
can I become what it is I receive every time I come to Holy Communion. You might also
consider Stations of the Cross, either on Friday evening or going into the church
anytime and going from station to station as a way to mediate, or picking up a Way of
the Cross book for personal meditation.
When the veil is removed during the Triduum, maybe a deeper thing to ask is can we
make sure come Easter, the veils are removed from our souls – permanently – that
prevent others from seeing the love of God in us, and that prevent us from seeing how
much God loves us and the response that it requires.
Book of the week: A parishioner a couple of months ago kindly gave me a book called
“Pickle-Chiffon Pie” that was written by Jolly Roger Bradfield, from Minneapolis. The
book dates back to the 60s, but is a great tale of thinking of others. Three princes vie for
the hand of a princess, and each has to bring something to impress the king. They are
in for a surprise though in the end when one sees what ultimately is the finest present
one could bring for a princess.