Veiling images in the church for Passiontide

Images veiled in purple for the season

“‘If I should speak in My Own honour,’ Jesus answered, ‘such honour goes for nothing. Honour must come to Me from My Father, from Him Whom you claim as your God; although you cannot recognize Him. But I have knowledge of Him; if I should say I have not, I should be what you are, a liar. Yes, I have knowledge of Him, and I am true to His word. As for your father Abraham, his heart was proud to see the day of My coming; he saw, and rejoiced to see it.’ Then the Jews asked Him, ‘Hast thou seen Abraham, thou, who art not yet fifty years old?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Believe Me, before ever Abraham came to be, I AM.’ Whereupon they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.”

Gospel of S. John, 8: 54-59

Yes, Jesus hid Himself away from the men who were determined to stone him to death, if they could – He had planned the precise moment of His death to coincide with the killing of the lambs for the Passover festival. But He had clearly used the holy Name of God at the point of the reading above, and so had revealed Himself as divine. But to such as His hearers were, He looked like a mere man claiming to be the high God – a deliberate act of blasphemy, and worthy of death, according to the Law of Moses. So He now hid Himself away, and as we approach the great liturgy of Holy Week and their lead-up to Easter, we hide away almost all the images in the church. In the next week and a half, we focus our attention directly on the Passion of Christ, from His entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday to the terrors of Good Friday and the repose of the Body in its tomb until Easter.

With much assistance from two of our parishioners, we managed to get most of the images in the church veiled. This year, we’ve only let Saint Ralph go, but next year we might find a purple curtain for his stained-glass window. The veiling hides away the comfort we derive from the figures of Christ and the Saints who conformed their lives to His and then reveals them liturgically and progressively, from the unveiling of the Body on the Cross on Good Friday – S. John’s Glorification of Christ, when the heart of God was revealed of a sudden and the veil of the Temple in Jerusalem was thus torn in two, to reveal the Holy of Holies to public view. Then, after the quiet of Holy Saturday and the glorious Resurrection, the face of the Church in her many Saint reappear, and we shall sing unendingly for seven weeks until Pentecost.