Dear St. Catherine Parish Family, Beginning this weekend (the 5th Sunday of Lent) at Mass, you will notice that all of the statues in the church are covered with a violet cloth and will remain covered until Easter. This is a tradition that has existed in the Church for centuries (normally the crucifix is covered as well, but it would be too difficult for us to cover the large crucifix in the sanctuary). Although, the precise origins of this practice are not clear, there are several reasons why it is appropriate to do this.
First, during Lent, we know we have the practice of fasting. In a way, we could say that covering our beautiful statues is a kind of “fasting from beautiful things” for a time, particularly as we enter more fully into the Lenten fast of our senses during these last two weeks of Lent.
Second, we know that during Lent, we are waiting to celebrate the great paschal mystery of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, which is what wins for us the victory over sin and death and obtains for us the grace that we need to be saints. And so, covering the crucifix, statues, and images of the saints is a reminder that we are still waiting for this celebration of the paschal mystery and the grace at Easter.
And third, in the lectionary of the Mass prior to the reforms of the second Vatican Council, on this 5th Sunday of Lent, we would read the account in John’s Gospel leading up to the passion, which speaks about the Pharisees intending to stone Jesus in the temple for claiming to be God, but Jesus “hid and went out of the temple area” (this Gospel is now read on Thursday of this coming week). The veil over the crucifix, statues, and images, is a reminder of this fact that Jesus veiled/hid himself until the hour of his passion arrived.
There are some other historical reasons for this practice as well, but I think the aforementioned ones provide a beautiful context for this tradition in the life of the Church. And I pray that this tradition encourages us to enter more intensely into these final days of Lent and to prepare more fruitfully for these profound mysteries of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. Sincerely in Christ,