Friday, 23 March 2012

Veiling

A long, but fruitful day today, appointing a Deputy Headteacher for our School, so, by way of some light relief...

The 5th Sunday of Lent, March 25th in 2012, is often known as Passion Sunday. We are still in Lent, but begin to observe Passiontide, marking a clear change of mood in the Church’s Liturgy, as we focus more clearly on the Passion of Jesus. With him we journey to the Cross, and to the empty tomb.

Like many Churches, we mark this distinct change of tempo by Veiling, or removing, Crucifixes and Statues in our Churches. This is an ancient practice which might seem puzzling at first. Surely, it is at this time that we ought above all to be mindful of Jesus' offering of himself for us – that is, to see the Cross?

There are a number of reasons for this practice, but at its heart, it is done for the same reason as giving up other things in Lent – the use of ‘Alleluia’, and the Hymn of Praise, the ‘Gloria’; the value is found in their restoration on Easter Day. Veiling for the final two weeks of Lent means for us that we are more aware than ever of the great hanging Roods, the Crucifixes that hang over the chancel in both of our churches. There we see the love of God shining out for us, in the Crucifixion of his Son, and in the faithful witness of his Blessed Mother and the beloved Disciple, a picture recorded for us in St John’s Gospel.


The Great Rood in St Mary's, Elland

One traditional reason is based on part of the Gospel reading for the day in the old Latin Mass: John 11v. 54: 'Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews' because they planned to put him to death, after he had raised Lazarus from the dead. The symbols of Jesus are veiled because he hid himself at this time; also, one writer says, to remind us that his divinity was hidden during his suffering and death.

Images in stained glass windows, and the Stations of the Cross are never veiled, as they continue to be used for devotion and prayer. It is usual of course for items such as Flowers and banners to be removed from Church for the whole of Lent (except for Mothering Sunday). Some Churches will veil for the whole of Lent, often using a Lenten Array of unbleached Linen and Sackcloth. Veils in our Churches are usually purple, except on Maundy Thursday, when White veils may be used to honour Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.