Why do you see covered statues and crucifixes during the last weeks of Lent?
The custom of veiling the images during the last two weeks of Lent hails from the old 1962 liturgical calendar in which the Passion was read on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (hence called “Passion Sunday”) as well as on Palm Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week, and Good Friday. In the new liturgical calendar the Passion is read-only on Palm Sunday and Good Friday; although oftentimes, even in the new calendar, one will still see statues and crucifixes covered from the fifth Sunday of Lent until the celebration of the Easter Vigil.
The Church has used veils to alert the faithful of the special time that we are in and approaching. When one walks into the church and notices everything is covered, one will immediately know that something is different. These last two weeks of Lent are meant to be a time of immediate preparation for the Sacred Triduum and these veils are a forceful reminder of the need for spiritual preparation.
Secondly, the Church uses veils to produce a heightened sense of anticipation for Easter Sunday. The covered statues serve as a powerful image of the darkness of sin that covers up Heavenly realities and figures. Sin weakens faith, makes it hard to see, and veils our vision of God. One should long to see what is behind the veil and more importantly remember the need for repentance.
The unveiling before the Easter Vigil is a great reminder of our own life on earth. We live in a “veiled” world, in exile from our true home. It is only through our own death that the veil is lifted and we are finally able to see the beauty of God’s grace in our lives.
The intensity of Lent is heightened in the last few weeks leading up to the Sacred Triduum such that one experiences in a profound way the power and effect of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead. Walking into a Church that has previously been veiled and is now seen clearly represents the labor of salvation that Christ works in our souls. The stark contrast from blindness to vision is a powerful reminder of what exactly we celebrate on Easter Sunday.
Veils over sacred images keep our minds on the promise of Easter.