Veiling the Cross and Images for Passiontide

veiling the cross passiontide 2016 (8)Following the Lenten tradition, all the crosses and images at St. Jude Chapel were veiled with purple cloth on the beginning of Passiontide or Passion Sunday (now called the Fifth Sunday of Lent), the Sunday prior to Palm Sunday.

Crosses and images veiled: Passion Sunday

Cross revealed: Good Friday to emphasize Jesus bearing the Cross on that day

Images and statues revealed: Easter Vigil

Why: In covering the religious images during the height of Lent, all attention is centered on the Passion and death of Christ. This is why the only images NOT to be covered are the Stations of the Cross.

Historians has not pinpointed the exact origin of this practice, but many agree that it was probably derived from a custom, noted in Germany from the ninth century, of extending a large cloth before the altar from the beginning of Lent.

This cloth, called the “Hungertuch” (hunger cloth), hid the altar entirely from the faithful during Lent and was not removed until during the reading of the Passion on Holy Wednesday at the words “the veil of the temple was rent in two.”

Some authors say there was a practical reason for this practice insofar as the often-illiterate faithful needed a way to know it was Lent.

Others, however, maintain that it was a remnant of the ancient practice of public penance in which the penitents were ritually expelled from the church at the beginning of Lent.

For analogous motives, later on in the Middle Ages, the images of crosses and saints were also covered from the start of Lent. The rule of limiting this veiling to Passiontide came later and does not appear until the publication of the Bishops’ Ceremonial of the 17th century.