Newsletter for Sunday 17 March 2024

15 Mar


On Ash Wednesday we marked our foreheads with ashes as a sign of penance, but also to recall that we are sinners and that we deserve to return to the dust from which we were made. On Palm Sunday we will carry palms in procession commemorating Our Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem which would lead to His victory as the King of Martyrs on Good Friday. But why do we have the custom, in some churches at least, of veiling images during these last two weeks of Lent?

Certainly, this veiling of images jumps out at anyone who comes to church on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, and immediately we know something is different. Up to this point in Lent we have been focusing on Our Lord’s forty days and forty nights in the desert, on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. But now we enter a period called Passiontide, when our focus is on the Passion, suffering and death of Our Lord. The church seems stark and empty, and soon Christ will be taken from us, sentenced to death and crucified. The Church will become a widow with the death of the Bridegroom, and so She puts on a veil of mourning.

The custom of veiling crosses and statues actually comes from the Gospel read on this Sunday in the traditional Latin Mass. “The Jews took up stones to cast at Him, but JESUS hid Himself, and went out of the Temple (John 8:59). So Our Lord’s enemies wanted to kill Him, but in order to escape, He hid or veiled Himself. So the conflict between the light of Christ and the forces of darkness were really heating up, but no one laid a finger on Our Lord until He permitted it. He would hand Himself over freely to His enemies at the time appointed. The exact time of His Passion and death had been fixed from all eternity.

It was after the Last Supper when Our Lord went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray that He handed Himself over. Most of the apostles were asleep, and Judas the traitor betrayed Our Lord with a kiss, at which point the soldiers moved forward to take Our Lord and arrest Him. The Gospel tells us that all the soldiers at that point were literally physically thrown back onto the ground (John 18:6), emphasising that the soldiers were powerless to arrest Christ until He allowed it. He would no longer hide or avoid His enemies because His hour had now come. The time had come for the confrontation with sin and death. And in this fight, He would use the most powerful weapon – the wood of the Cross in which Satan would be totally conquered.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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