Why Catholics Veil the Crucifix and Statues During Passiontide
The two weeks before Easter Sunday are known as the Passiontide, beginning after mass on the fifth Sunday of Lent. There is a tradition in the Church dating back to the 9th century where the crucifixes and statues are veiled in somber purple cloth. In some parishes, this practice fell away after the 2nd Vatican Council, but still continues in many parishes throughout the world.
Why does the Church veil statues and the crucifix?
Because the Church is always trying to direct the faithful into deeper participation and understanding of the sacred mysteries of faith. In this case, the passion and death and resurrection of our Lord. During these two weeks before the celebration of the resurrection, we experience the humiliation of our Lord and are reminded of it by the veiled crucifixes. "When the Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus, he hid from them." (John 8:59) But why the statues also? "The statues of the saints, too, are covered; for it is but just that, if the glory of the Master be eclipsed, the servant should not appear." (Abbot Gueranger)
So once again, the Church invites us during Lent to deeply experience the suffering, humiliation and ultimate passion of our Lord. But why all this suffering and humiliation? Didn't Jesus suffer and die so I don't have to? Yes and no. Yes he died so we may have eternal life being freed from our sins by His cross and resurrection. But no, we must also suffer because he asks us to also take up our crosses and follow him. "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death." (Phil 3:10)
Finally, after the passiontide is over, the Resurrection of our Lord is experienced with even greater joy during the Easter Triduum when the veils are removed. "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." (Matt 27:51)
So you can see these Lenten practices of the Catholic faith are not "man-made inventions and meaningless rituals." They are based on Scripture and promoted by the Church to nourish and enhance our love for the savior who suffered and died for us. Once again, the Church uses the "stuff of earth" to bring us grace from Heaven!
(Reprinted from my 2012 post)