Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we begin the Fifth Week of Lent, the crucifix and other images in the church are covered until the Easter Vigil. This ancient practice is intended to help intensify our Lenten fasting in immediate preparation for the Paschal mystery we will celebrate during Holy Week. Images and artwork, beautiful reminders of the heroism of the saints, visible calls to piety and prayer, are now covered that our fasting may even be visual fasting.
The veiling of statues and crucifixes always makes me think of construction, painting, or long-term storage. When a home is being renovated or painted, or will not be used for a long period of time, furniture is covered with sheets or tarps to prevent damage. If you were to walk in, you would immediately feel that work is in progress…and probably be curious to see the final product. Lent is a great reminder that we are works in progress. And so we veil the images at this point in Lent as the sign that the reconstruction happening in our spiritual lives via prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is now reaching a critical point. When we look at the veiled images, we may also experience a desire to see them again, to once again look at those beautiful symbols.
In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B, people approach Philip and Andrew with the desire to see Jesus. That same desire echoes in our hearts as we look on the veiled images around us. The desire to see – to be close to, to know, to encounter – Jesus increases throughout the Lenten season, in part because we long for our fasting to be over, in part because our acts of penance have purified us, rebuilt us, and created in us the space that Jesus needs.
As we come into these last days of the Lenten season, let us be renewed for one final push in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. May these last days increase our longing for the Lord and accomplish in us the work that God wants to do in our hearts and lives.