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Why We Veil Crosses in the Church beginning from the 5th Sunday of Lent.

Traditionally, the veiling of the crucifix, crosses and images of saints inside the Church begins today, the 5th Sunday of Lent, also called the Lazarus Sunday.

The tradition is biblically tied to the Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent (Year A); Jesus’s raising of Lazarus from death who came out of his tomb…still bounded (veiled). Moreover, the veiling of crosses has a more profound theological meaning. The early Christians understood the image of Jesus on the Cross as a sign of his glory (John 12:32); the King of Glory seated on his throne. Thus, it was not a sad moment. That is why till today the Crucifix is displayed in every Catholic Church. It is a moment of glory; Christ reigning from His throne of glory. It is a happy moment.

So starting from the two weeks leading up to Good Friday, crosses and images of saints, seen as signs of glory, are removed or veiled (covered) as it were…so that we can begin to contemplate more on the sad events leading up to the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. We have been fasting from food and meat all along our Lenten journey. Mother Church now asks us to observe another kind of fasting i.e., “fasting of the eyes”.

In another sense, this fulfils what Jesus Himself said when asked why His disciples did not fast…”But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” (Luke 5:35). The veiled crucifix is another form of fasting for us His disciples.

In this tradition we see, yet again, the beauty and deep theological and spiritual significance behind the outward signs of our Catholic faith. The more we understand these signs, the better we appreciate our worship.

NB: Since the Reform of the Liturgy in the 1970s, following the Second Vatican Council, the veiling/covering of crosses and holy images inside the church are now obligatory only during the Easter Triduum (After the Mass of Holy Thursday till the time before the celebration of the Easter Vigil). The Veiling of Crosses beginning on the 5th Sunday of Lent is still permitted but now it’s a decision left to the individual Bishops.

Author: Rev. Fr. Anthony Agnes Adu – Mensah

© Ask The Catholic Priest

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