Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Identity: Veiling of Images for Passiontide

As we are deep into Passiontide, I thought that I would share a small element of our lost Catholic Identity that is starting to make a bit more of a comeback. The covering of statues and sacred images beginning with the First Passion Sunday (i.e. the Sunday before Palm Sunday).

As with all the sacramentals of the Catholic Church, the imagery and focus that it creates for the faithful is amazing. An old priest I knew used to describe it as the Church, as the Body of Christ, dying in a physical way. Father Z on his blog as also described it similarly in that Holy Mother Church begins to slowly "take things away" from us, with the lacking making us more away of what is missing the deeper we get into the Triduum until Holy Friday when the silence and bareness of the church gives a stunning symbolism of the dying and suffering Saviour.

To put it another way... it is the same feeling I get after the Feast of the Epiphany when I take down all the Christmas decorations and the tree... the emptiness created in the house is amazing. That is the same feeling that the Church is trying to create in us... a feeling of emptiness and loss... until that glorious moment of the Great Easter Vigil... the Gloria in Excelsis and the opening of the lights, the lighting of the candles, and yes, the unveiling of the images! All that was lost in returned to us and more!

In my old beloved Italian parish of San Leonardo in Boston, we move from Friday's statue in the crypt church of Gesu' Morto (the dead Jesus statue) last seen as the "burial cloth" is pulled over it to the Easter Vigil uncovering on the high altar of the grand statue of Gesu' Risorto! (the risen and glorious Christ).

Some of our protestant brothers dislike our use of statuary and sacred images, but we Catholics do not worship the images themselves , but use them in helping a human with five "physical" senses to create the mental and "spiritual" imagine.

As I mentioned, the more liberal or "modern" parishes have shunned this veiling practice, but it should not surprise us, at least here in Charlotte, that where the more traditional and orthodox priest lead their flocks... namely St. Ann's and St. Michael's... the images are veiled! (Note: I understand that St. Michael's images are not covered this year, but have been in the past).

So as we move into this Holiest of weeks... and "die" with Christ & his Holy Church let us pray in the Holy Friday song of the Italians...

Sono stato, io l'ingrato; Gesu' mio, perdon, pieta'!


Charlie said...

I love the custom of veiling images during Passiontide. Unfortunately, my parish doesn't have veils for the statuary. Perhaps its something a few of us parishioners could make themselves and donate for next year.

s monaco said...

Excellent idea, Charlie, you can probably find some really inexpensive material at Hobby Lobby.