Sunday—29 March AD 2020
Support our Building Fund
[Mass Text - Latin]
[Mass Text - English]
It seems that every year since I have
been a priest, there has been someone who tells me that they have never
seen the crucifix and the other images covered in purple cloth—or at
least someone who wants to know why they are covered. So, I thought I'd
beat whoever it is this year to the punch and explain why, before I am
The custom is quite ancient, going
back before the time crucifixes came to be used by Christians. You see,
in the very early days, right after the time of Christ, the cross still
represented the shameful death that the Romans would only sentence bad
people to endure—it evoked thoughts of murderers and robbers, and such
Only after a few centuries did the
cross become a symbol of Christ and His death and resurrection. And
even then, it would be a few more centuries before artisans would begin
crafting images of Jesus Himself to put on those crosses. Roman
persecution insured that the few things used by the Church for worship
would be both plain and portable. The early Christians didn't want to
have to hide much when the soldiers broke in.
But as Christianity became an accepted
part of the Empire, more elaborate and ornate accouterments were added
to the Church's worship. And for a fair period of time, the altar cross
used by Catholics was a plain cross, decorated with jewels to make it
attractive. And as you might expect, during the season of Lent, such a
display seemed out of place to many people. So the custom of covering
the cross, and later the other paintings or statues developed. Its
purpose, then, is to convey to us the somber tone appropriate to these
last two weeks of deep Lenten observance.
Even today, when crucifixes are
relatively plain, we retain the custom of veiling them as a reminder
that—especially at this time of year—our prayer ought to be more
introspective. By introspective I mean that, instead of looking around
us, and seeing images of our Lord and Lady and the Saints, we ought to
try to visualize them and their virtues in our minds. Instead of seeing
a pretty picture of our Lord, we are to recall what we know about Him,
and try to hold Him in our thoughts. In fact, we want to get beyond
forming pictures of them, to forming relationships with them. Jesus and
Mary should be more than pretty pictures or statues to us—and this
introspective prayer or meditation is the way we begin speaking
personally with God; the way in which we develop the inner focus and
solitude that will enable us to hear His response to our prayers.
Now, quite appropriately, in this
season of the Passion, our meditation ought to call to mind the
Crucifixion and Death of our Lord. And, if we want to develop a
meditation on this, or any other holy event, we might do so by asking
ourselves the questions traditionally asked by writers when they compose
a story: Who, what, when, where, why, how, and to what consequence?
Lets try that together, so that you can see what I mean.
Who suffered? The Creator suffered
for the creature. The God who created us, suffered for us. Our Lord
Jesus Christ, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity painfully laid down
His life for us.
What did He suffer? He suffered the
painful agony of having nails pounded through his wrists and hanging on
those agonized limbs for hours until he died by asphyxiation; too weak
to pull Himself up to draw another breath. He suffered a death so
terrible that just thinking about it in Gethsemane caused Him break out
in a sweat of blood.
Where and When did He suffer? He
suffered in Jerusalem, about 2000 years ago. But the philosopher Blaise Pascal,
suggested that because of mankind's continued sinning, “Our Lord Jesus
Christ will be in agony until the end of time”—something to think about
when we are tempted to sin.
Why did He suffer? He suffered
because His insignificant creatures had disobeyed their infinite
Creator. In justice, only God become man could satisfy for this
infinite insult. But, perhaps more important, He wanted to demonstrate
not His justice, but His love for us.
How did He suffer? He suffered at
the hands of His “chosen people,” who loudly demanded His crucifixion;
and He was put to death by the politicians and world leaders of His
To what consequence did He suffer?
By His suffering, our Lord re-opened the gates of heaven. From His
Heart, pierced with a lance, we have the torrent of sanctifying grace;
that which allows the life of God to live in our souls. And, hopefully,
by His suffering and our meditation on it, we can develop the true love
of God and a strong hatred for sin.
And, of course, no meditation on the
Crucifixion would be complete without remembering that in His suffering,
Jesus gave us Mary to be our Mother; to have compassion on us as she had
compassion on Him as she stood at the foot of the Cross; the perfect
model for wives and mothers and women dedicated to God whenever they
This sort of meditation takes a little
bit more than just viewing a picture of a statue, or even than reading
from Sacred Scripture. But it is the way, and perhaps the only way that
we can actually form a relationship with almighty God. So, the
crucifix is veiled today in order to remind us that—particularly during
these next two weeks—we ought to turn our thoughts inward, and find
Jesus Christ in our hearts.