Some Signs and Symbols of Passiontide and Holy Week
As we are nearing Passiontide and the celebration of the Sacred Triduum, it is good for us to consider the meaning of some of the liturgical signs and symbols we will encounter during this period in the church and during the ceremonies.
Firstly from the Fifth Sunday of Lent, it is traditional to veil the statues, pictures and crucifixes in the church in purple with the exception of the Stations of the Cross. They remain veiled until the uncovering of the principle crucifix during the Sacred Liturgy on Good Friday. According to Abbot Gueranger, “The interpreters of the liturgy tell us that this ceremony of veiling the crucifix during Passiontide, expresses the humiliation to which our Saviour subjected Himself, of hiding Himself when the Jews threatened to stone Him, as is related in the Gospel. ‘They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple (John 8:59)’.”
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper (Missa in Coena Domini) when Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and ordained the Apostles as His first priests, and so the colour of the Mass is white. Bells are rung at the Gloria and then remain silent until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil. In place of the bells is used a ‘crepitaculum’ or a noisemaker which indicates that this is also a period of mourning for the Church – the night Our Lord was betrayed, abandoned by His disciples and imprisoned before being put to death the next day. Neither is the sign of peace given on this day, since Judas the traitor “profaned the sign of friendship by making it an instrument of death.” Following the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose, the altars in the church are stripped to show that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is interrupted and will not be offered again until Saturday evening.