Veiled Images in the Church

Purple cloths or veils over sacred images keep our minds on the promise of Easter. It seems strange that Catholics cover items that are so beautiful in our churches, even the crucifix. While it may appear odd to veil statues and images during the final weeks of Lent, the Catholic Church recommends this practice to heighten our senses and build within us a longing for Easter Sunday.

In the Roman Missal we find the instruction, “In the Dioceses of the United States, the practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from [the fifth] Sunday [of Lent] may be observed. Crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.”

Why do we go to such lengths to cover up images that are placed in our Church to raise our hearts and minds toward heaven?

First of all, we use the purple cloths to remind us of the special time that Lent is. When we walk into our church and notice everything is covered, we know that something is different. The last two weeks of Lent are meant to be a time of final preparation for the Triduum and these veils are a strong reminder.

Second, the purple cloths focus our attention on the words said at Mass. During the Passion narrative, our senses focus on the words from the Gospel and we truly enter into the scene.

Third, the Church uses purple cloths to produce a greater anticipation for Easter Sunday. This is even more emphasized when you attend daily Mass and see the purple cloths each day.