Passiontide veils

It is Passion Sunday.

From this onward our custom in the Latin Church is to veil statues and many images.

Are the images in your church veiled?

You might send photos (as attachments).


In case anyone wonders why we veil statues and images, here is something I wrote about 1st Passion Sunday.

In the 1962 Missale Romanum, the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite, this is First Passion Sunday.  In the Novus Ordo we also call Palm Sunday “Passion” Sunday.  Today is the beginning of “Passiontide”.  It is known as Iudica Sunday, from the first word of the Introit of Mass, from Ps 42 (41).

We lose things during Lent.  We are being pruned through the liturgy. Holy Church experiences liturgical death before the feast of the Resurrection.   The Alleluia goes on Septuagesima.  Music and flowers go on Ash Wednesday.   Today, statues and images are draped in purple.  That is why today is sometimes called Repus Sunday, from repositus analogous to absconditus or “hidden”, because this is the day when Crosses and other images in churches are veiled.  The universal Church’s Ordo published by the Holy See has an indication that images can be veiled from this Sunday, the 5th of Lent.  Traditionally Crosses may be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and images, such as statues may be covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.  At my home parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN, the large statue of the Pietà is appropriately unveiled at the Good Friday service.

Also, as part of the pruning, as of today in the older form of Mass, the “Iudica” psalm in prayers at the foot of the altar and the Gloria Patri at the end of certain prayers was no longer said.  
The pruning cuts more deeply as we march into the Triduum. After the Mass on Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the main altar, which itself is stripped and bells are replaced with wooden noise makers.  On Good Friday there isn’t even a Mass.  At the beginning of the Vigil we are deprived of light itself!  It is as if the Church herself were completely dead with the Lord in His tomb.  This liturgical death of the Church reveals how Christ emptied Himself of His glory in order to save us from our sins and to teach us who we are.

The Church then gloriously springs to life again at the Vigil of Easter.  In ancient times, the Vigil was celebrated in the depth of night.  In the darkness a single spark would be struck from flint and spread into the flames.  The flames spread through the whole Church.    

If we can connect ourselves in heart and mind with the Church’s liturgy in which these sacred mysteries are re-presented, then by our active receptivity we become participants in the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  To begin this active receptivity we must be baptized members of the Church and be in the state of grace.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Francis says:

    And why, Father, do we veil our statues and images at this time?

  2. Dear Father Z.,

    Praised be Christ Crucified! Yes! Here at St. Rose of Lima in Milton, Florida, all the statues in our church are veiled (including the Risen Christ behind our altar and tabernacle. The pastor agreed that we should veil our statues! On Good Friday we also plan to veil the processional crucifix, for the impact that the unveiling will have for the veneration. I will try to send a photo!

    Thanks for your priesthood and excellent bolg!

    In Christ Crucified,

    Father Nicholas Schumm

  3. Jim of Bowie says:

    The statues are covered at my Novus Ordo parish (which is a conservative and fairly traditional parish), but were not at the parish I went to today for the Gregorian Mass.

  4. momoften says:

    We made statue covers, then veiled everything- and removed the things we didn’t veil. It is amazing how empty the church feels by having the statues and crucifixes covered. It was a more dramatic affect than I thought it would be. To not be able to gaze at the crucifix and statues….is very sad. It makes you realize how empty our lives would be without Mary, the saints, and Christ.

  5. Peter Ochwal says:

    We veil statues and images because all the merits of the saints were possible to gain only after Christ Death on the Cross

  6. excellent BLog! sorry for the typos. PAX

  7. Dave says:

    Our statues at church have been veiled throughout Lent. The Hosanna and the Lamb of God are sung in Latin during the Lenten season. I was just wondering the significance of the veiling.

  8. Mark M says:

    Ours are not veiled. :(

    I am not trying to be divisive, but it is, you know, mandated (i.e. has to be done)?

  9. JBB says:

    Of course not.

  10. matthew says:

    No, but our Holy Water founts are drained… O Tempora, O Mores!

  11. Jenny Z says:

    I didn’t attend my usual church this morning, but went to a more traditional parish… and yes, everything was veiled!!

    It seems like parishes that offer the TLM seem to have a more traditional, reverent Novus Ordo. I wish all were that way. :/

  12. Dennis says:

    I drove out to St.Mary’s in Norwalk for the EF mass all the images were veiled in the main church and also in the lower chapel — however my parish in Harrison NY not veiled

  13. lavatea says:

    I went to a different church today – a mission. The statues were not veiled, and they used instruments in all of the songs (isn’t that a no-no right now?). I don’t know if the statues were veiled at the Cathedral where I normally attend.

  14. Geoffrey says:

    Sadly not where I live in California. What do the rubrics really say about this (Ordinary Form)? It is optional, correct?

    I notice that even though this Sunday is no longer officially called “Passion Sunday” in the Ordinary Form, much of the emphasis is retained in the liturgy.

  15. Tina says:

    Where I go to Mass has no statues, so it is a moot point…

  16. mrsmontoya says:

    It is not Passion Sunday in our “Breaking Bread” missal, nor is it taught in the catichism of our time here (in CA). It is still Lent, and will be until next Sunday when we begin Holy Week.

    Not saying this is correct form, but it is what is here in Diocese of San Jose CA.

    [It really is Passion Sunday on 29 March this year. It is called 1st Passion Sunday in the traditional Roman calendar. In the post-Conciliar calendar used with he Novus Ordo it is the 5th Sunday of Lent. Nevertheless, even in the Ordo for the newer form of Mass, this is the Sunday indicated for veiling images.]

  17. Josiah Ross says:

    All of ours were veiled, including the processional crucifix. I tried to get some photos, but the camera was acting weird, and apparently the photos weren’t saved on the disk. D:
    I do have a photo of somewhere else.

  18. Okay, I’m really confused now. I guess we’re two weeks behind you this year, then? I thought next Sunday was Palm Sunday in the West.

    Palm Sunday for us is April 12. And I did just check to make sure I wasn’t confused about that, too.

  19. Frank H. says:

    A recent column by Fr. John Dietzen addresses this –

    “When the revised missal was published in 1970, however, it included a different regulation, which is found at the end of the Mass for Saturday of the fourth week of Lent.

    “The practice of covering crosses and images in the church may be observed, if the episcopal conference decides.” In that case, beginning on the second Sunday before Easter, “The crosses are to be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday. Images are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.”

    These rubrics were repeated by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1988.

    As of now, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not voted to continue the rule of covering images. Thus the practice has not been permitted in this country for 38 years. Individual parishes have no authority to reintroduce the practice on their own.”

    If this is correct, are the parished mentioned being disobedient to the USCCB?

  20. IngridAiram says:

    Even though I attended Mass in a parish where only the novus ordo is celebrated, the statues near the altar were veiled, only those, not in other parts in the church. Don’t know if that will happen next week..

  21. Nathan says:

    rightwingprof, you’re not confused. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday in the Latin Rite (both forms). Today the images are veiled because, in the Extraordinary Form it is the First Sunday in Passion Time, often called Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday is the Second Sunday in Passion Time.

    Lent is still going on, but the focus moves more specifically to the Passion of Our Blessed Lord. The Psalm “Judica me” is not said at the beginning of the EF Mass, and the “Gloria Patri” is omitted from the Mass texts, as well as those of the Divine Office.

    The EF Gospel today was Christ uttering, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” As I understand it, this discourse from St John’s Gospel was the tipping point that settled the matter of the death of Christ among the priests, Pharasees, and Sanhedrin. It puts the events of the Passion into motion.

    The OF does observe the Fifth Sunday of Lent today. Many parishes do veil their images as well, often those which are undergoing the gravitational pull of “Summorum Pontificum.” Actually, a number did well before SP, mostly because it’s something we’ve always done.

    In Christ,

  22. rightwingprof,

    Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. Today is Passion Sunday and marks the beginning of Passiontide, which lasts two weeks – Passion Week and Holy Week. It is a particularly solemn part of Lent. Palm Sunday is also called Second Sunday of Passiontide.

    Incidentally, the new Roman Calendar does not speak of Passiontide or Passion Sunday, so it may be that this season has been abolished, like the preparation time for Lent (tempus septuagesimae).

  23. Mark says:

    Oh yes, they’re veiled here at St. Joseph’s in Groningen, the Netherlands, including the processional cross.

    I was talking with our sacristan this morning and he mentioned he always finds it such a sad sight. I agreed, but at the same time there is a strange undercurrent of expectation that makes me look forward to Good Friday.

  24. Will says:

    Ours were veiled for the second year in a row. The bulletin had an informative article, saying that “veiling was never officially suppressed, but was discouraged. In 2001 the US bishops voted ot allow parishes to cover crossed and statues.”
    It also references John 12:36 as a reason for the veiling.

  25. Ted Krasnicki says:

    Yes indeed, beginning today, no more Gloria Patri for the Introits until Easter Sunday in the old use. This symbolism does not apply to the new use as references to the Trinity have almost been suppressed there throughout the year, not just in the Introits.

  26. Ottaviani says:

    It is not Passion Sunday in our “Breaking Bread” missal…

    Are you prepared to trust a missal named like that?!

    If I were you I would get myself an Angelus Press Missal quick and get to the TLM!

  27. Niall Mor says:

    Interesting question, Father. Our statuary has not been veiled, but I would not mind seeing this custom brought to our parish. Interestingly enough, the only parish in which I have seen this done was at a university parish during my graduate school days, a parish presided over by a priest that I otherwise would have described as a liberal or a progressive–at least more liberal or progressive than I. That year our statuary, icons, etc. were veiled from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, IIRC.

  28. Steve says:

    From the Fish Eaters Website (

    “Today, Passion Sunday, statues and sacred images (except for the Stations of the Cross) are veiled with purple cloth beginning at the Vespers of Passion Sunday, and they remain covered until the Gloria of Holy Saturday, at which point Lent ends and Eastertide begins. Catholics cover statues and icons, etc., in their homes for the same time period (the cloth shouldn’t be transluscent or decorated in any way).

    This veiling of the statues and icons stems from the Gospel reading of Passion Sunday (John 8:46-59), at the end of which the Jews take up stones to cast at Jesus, Who hides Himself away. The veiling also symbolizes the fact that Christ’s Divinity was hidden at the time of His Passion and death, the very essence of Passiontide.

    At the Vespers Mass on Holy Saturday, Lent ends and Easter begins: the statues are unveiled at that time in one of the most glorious liturgical moments of the entire Church year, a moment that affirms His divinity and proclaims that ‘He is risen!'”

    Also, does anyone out there know of a place that makes statue veils? I think that they would have to be custom made to fit the dimemensions of the statue, cross, painting etc…

  29. Girgadis says:

    In our parish, where the TLM was offered for the first time since Vatican
    II in January, the statues are veiled for the second year in a row,
    including the processional cross. Here is an off-the-wall question:
    I, like my Italian grandmother once did, keep a small “shrine” in my living room
    honoring some of the Saints as well as the Sacred Heart. Would it be
    appropriate to veil them?

  30. Simon Platt says:

    The EF Gospel today was Christ uttering, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

    It struck me this morning that this, er, discussion between Our Lord and his opponents was quite a row. It reminded me of some of the things I read on blogs.

  31. MargaretMN says:

    The first time I saw this was when I attended Mass at a Catholic parish in London, England. Attending Masses in MI, TX, IL and MN during lent at different times in my life, I have never seen it done in the US. I would consider my current parish to be pretty traditional but it doesn’t do it. I don’t think it’s a conservative/liberal thing. If anything liberals/progressives seem to have an excessive need for “staging” the Mass like a play or a concert. They get the environmental effect of doing things like this. Usually though, it’s dead trees, driftwood and rocks, sand etc. to represent Lent.

  32. Trad Tom says:

    OK, someone help me out. Frank H. says that Father Dietzen says that the USCCB says that veiling/covering “has not been permitted in this country for 38 years. Individual parishes have no authority to reintroduce the practice on their own.” Then Will says that an article in the bulletin says that “veiling was never officially suppressed, but was discouraged. In 2001 the US bishops voted to allow parishes to cover crosses and statues.”

    Who’s right? Or more importantly, what’s right?

  33. Dominic H says:

    Yes, all duly veiled (in this not particularly traditional, but none the less thoroughly orthodox parish)

  34. Frank H. says:

    I found this on the USCCB website, in notes from a March 2006 meeting –

    “2. Have the Bishops of the Unites States expressed the judgment on this practice?
    Yes. On June 14, 2001, the Latin Church members of the USCCB approved an adaptation to number 318 of the
    General Instruction of the Roman Missal which would allow for the veiling of crosses and images in this manner.
    On April 17, 2002, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the
    Discipline of the Sacraments wrote to Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, USCCB President (Prot. no. 1381/01/L), noting
    that this matter belonged more properly to the rubrics of the Fifth Sunday of Lent. While the decision of the
    USCCB will be included with this rubric when the Roman Missal is eventually published, the veiling of crosses
    and images may now take place at the discretion of the local pastor.”

    Sounds convincing to me! A bit troubling, too, since I think Fr. Dietzen’s column is pretty widely distributed in diocesan newspapers, and presumably read by many Catholics.

  35. Bill in Texas says:

    Ours have been veiled since the beginning of Lent, with the exception of the processional crucifix. Latin for Sanctus, Mysterium Fidei, and Agnus Dei for the same period. Novus Ordo parish.

  36. Sid says:

    Two rules

    1. Symbols have to be traditional and archaic to do their effect/affect. Even the Commies used a sickle and hammer, not a John Deer tractor and a pile driver. The same reason while we have candles on the altar, not floodlights, and the priest vests in the garments of Late Antiquity.

    2. In moments of liturgical intensity, one returns to as archaic a practice as possible. Thus no instrumental music, no bells – as the diurnal practice in the early church and synagogue. I’ve been told that the bidding prayers on Good Friday are the original way petitions were offered in the Roman Rite, and that our present day usual OF petitions are taken from the Byzantine Rite. So then also statues: the early church had none, for fear of idolatry. (and I know evangelical Protestants who think we worship these statues!)

    So now a 3rd rule: pruning back step by step from Septuagesima, and completely recovery at the Easter Vigil – another reason why the Easter Vigil is indispensable and the supreme feast of feasts. I thank Fr. Z.

  37. We lose things during Lent. We are being pruned through the liturgy. Holy Church experiences liturgical death before the feast of the Resurrection.

    It has indeed been a long Lent for those churches where statues and icons have been taken out altogether, or replaced by modern “art.” But then, every Lent, however long, will have its Easter.

  38. Jayna says:

    Were there any images or statues in our church, they might have covered them. Good thing they never thought to put anything like that in there. There is a crucifix in the chapel, but I didn’t check to see if they had covered it.

  39. MVine says:

    No veiled statues were I go to for Sunday mass. There were instruments (guitar and an organ), but no bells for the consecration.

  40. SAD & MAD says:

    Nothing different at my parish. Full,loud music, joyous music; the priest in a white chasuble with a purple overstole; lots of talking and laughing. It’s always a big celebration of the people for the people…I dread Good Friday when they go all out for the party mood.

  41. Mary says:

    “Music and flowers go on Ash Wednesday”? I don’t remember about flowers, but we still had music last week and this week at High Mass… a particularly elaborate piece of polyphony at one point today, actually. Is this wrong of us, or does “music” mean organ music, or what? (We’ve had both sung Ordinary and Propers, and also sung “O Sacred Head Surrounded.”)

    We borrow our chapel for High Mass, so the statues weren’t veiled, but at St. Thomas Aquinas downtown they all were, starting Saturday morning. It was very emotionally effective because I’ve gotten used to greeting Our Lady and St. Anthony with a glance at their statues when I walk in, but suddenly I couldn’t see them…

  42. Jack says:

    It has been so long since I’ve seen this done that I forgot we used to do this! I’ll bet I haven’t seen any RC Church do this since 1964.

  43. Lola in Spain says:

    Here in Spain, I’ve never seen veiling — in fact, in Spain, they take the images out into the street in solemn processions during Passiontide. There are many towns and cities where these processions are extremely elaborate, and people plan and rehearse literally all year (carrying these very large images in a way that is safe _and_ beautiful is not easy!). Some of these images are only shown in public during Holy Week, and kept in special storage areas the rest of the year — life-size depictions in polychromed wood of the Last Supper, for example. Others are usually in a church or their own little side-chapel during the rest of the year.

    The first time I saw veiling was in Geneva, Switzerland. At the time I wasn’t familiar with the practice, and when I walked into a the church I attended regularly it was a shock. It was scary. And as someone mentioned earlier, in a flash I just “got” it. How empty life would be without Christ, without His Blessed Mother, without the saints…

  44. Father Totton says:

    we veiled our statues, and an image of the Last Supper. Unfortunately, the crosses were not veiled (because time ran out, I suppose).

    Here is a question, though, would it be proper to replace the violet veils with red for next Sunday, and then use white veils on Holy Thursday?

  45. AnnaTrad says:

    At our TLM parish all the statues,pictures and the processional cross were covered. The Psalm “Judica me” was not said at the beginning of Mass, and the “Gloria Patri” was omitted from the Mass texts. I agree with momoften on how painfully empty the church felt. The homily was excellent, great spiritual food for the next two weeks to prepare ourselves for our Risen Lord.

  46. Father Totton says:

    It is an interesting point to consider churches which are bare of iconography, there is nothing to veil. Parishes that don’t ring bells, cannot take away what they don’t have. This is how wacky notions (ashtray holy water fonts, for example) about how to observe the seasons come about.

    Several, particularly children (to whom the kingdom belongs), asked this morning about the veiling. I hope mom and dad bring them to church for the vigil, so they can take in, in full effect, the total restoration (lights, bells, organ, saints, the unique blend of fragrant Easter lillies and laudate incense!)

  47. chris p says:

    I went to the EF Mass in Alhambra, CA today and all the images were veiled. I came home, checked here and remembered to veil what we have here at home. It sure looks sad. :(

  48. Mark says:


  49. Tony says:

    The statues are veiled at St. Peter’s, Merchantville, NJ (of course). A picture of the sanctuary is on the front page of the parish website:

    Also, Father Manuppella says hi.

  50. Tony says:

    I have to get some violet material to veil the statues and icons in my home (at the behest of my convert wife).

  51. roxanne says:

    Veiled at Holy Cross in Batavia! But I never considered veiling my own statues here at home. Thank you Tony’s wife for the suggestion.

  52. Mitch_WA says:

    We have had the wooden clackers instead of bells in my parish all this Lent in My Parish… But today I went to an OF Latin Mass celebrated Ad Orientem at a nearby parish, but no veiling, they will apparently do that next Sunday since that is more in line with the OF readings, prayers and whatnot… The Mass was nice, their was organ music before Mass and after Mass but none during Mass.

  53. Michael Val says:

    Our parish’s statues were veiled on Ash Wednesday. I do not think music has been remove, but we haven’t been there in a few weeks (we’ve picked up Mass wherever we have been).

    Michael Val Hietter

  54. Joseph Fromm says:

    Veiled and Passion Sunday was mentioned. Diocesan parish in Tampa Florida

  55. Anita says:

    Nothing veiled this morning. :(

  56. Fr. WTC says:

    For the first time in 40 years, the sacred images were covered in my Pennsylvania church. In the bulletin I explained to the people that as we enter Passiontide the Church dims the slender of her temples to help her children reflect a little deeper on the significance of the Lords passion and death. It must have worked, I hear nothing negative from the usual suspects with respect to the veiling.

  57. ssoldie says:

    This is the way our Churchs looked during Lent when I was young, made one really think deeply about what the season of Lent was all about. Forty + yrs in the desert, enough.

  58. Jakub says:

    Nothing veiled, though the choir sang Amazing Grace @ communion…of course I’m in So Cal

  59. Gloria says:

    The huge Corpus over the altar is veiled, as is the crucifix over the tabernacle, and all the statues, including in the side chapel at St. Stephen’s, Sacramento. The processional Cross is veiled and stays so until Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday. The celebrant uncovers the top part of the Cross, singing the “Ecce lignum…” to which the response is made, “Venite, adoremus.” Singing in a higher tone he uncovers the right arm. Finally the whole Cross is exposed. Priest and other ministers remove their shoes and venerate the Cross, kissing the feet. Then the altar boys and finally the congregation. Meanwhile the choir is singing the “Popule meus….” The full liturgy of Good Friday is observed, including all the intercessions. It is profoundly moving to hear the three priests chanting St. John’s Passion. One is the narrator and voice of Pilate, one is the crowd, and one is Christ. At the end is the wonderful coloratura passage, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have a priest with the voice to do it justice.

  60. Jeremy says:

    Reading some of the above, perhaps it would be an excellent opportunity to veil the guitars – and their players – permanently.

  61. Gerry S says:

    YES, and with a very good explanation why

  62. Joseph says:

    Why are even crucifixes veiled at this time? The closing words of the Gospel in the extraordinary form on Pasison Sunday are: “but Jesus hid Himself, and He went out of the Temple”, following on from His declaration before the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am”. At His Incarnation, Our Lord emptied Himself of His divinity – or, rather, the signs of His divinity – now, in His Passion, He seems even to hide His humanity as He is looked upon as a worm and no man. He has entered into the very depths of man’s lost state in order to redeem us, a depth that includes going into the very bowels of hell itself on Holy Saturday to redeem the just from the Limbo of the Fathers.

  63. Will says:

    Father Totten makes in interesting point. As I noted in my original comment, this is the second year that the images have been veiled in my parish. Last year it was only the large crucifix, which was nowhere near the altar. This year, the large crucifix is behind the altar, and it along with the new image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and two other new statues are all veiled.

    Brick by brick, and step by step.

  64. “rightwingprof, you’re not confused. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday in the Latin Rite (both forms). Today the images are veiled because, in the Extraordinary Form it is the First Sunday in Passion Time, often called Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday is the Second Sunday in Passion Time.”

    Ah, thank you.

    We have nothing equivalent (we never veil icons). We do, however, have the closest equivalent to the Stations of the Cross during Holy Friday Matins (on Holy Thursday evening, because we reckon the days from sunset to sunset), the Twelve Gospel Readings. After the fifth Gospel, the priest and deacons bring the cross out from behind the iconostasis and process around the church as the chanter sings “Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the cross.” The cross is set up in the middle of the chuch and the priest nails the body to the cross. We then prostrate before the cross and kiss the feet of the crucified Christ. I cry like a baby.

  65. Simon Platt says:

    RWP: that sounds similar to our Good Friday liturgy – more like that than like the stations.

  66. JC says:

    But isn’t there a plenary indulgence for venerating the crucifix on a Friday in Lent?

  67. Jane says:

    To answer the “why” of covering statues.

    It is an ancient custom that gets its start from yesterday’s Gospel’s last words: “And He hid Himself from them.”

  68. John F says:

    Thank you Father!

    My seven year old son asked me this very question at Mass last Sunday, and I found myself scrambling to the foreword of Passiontide in my missal for an explanation!

    I had thought that it was a deprivation of sorts of the beauties of the Church, but I had never linked the entire sequence from the missing Gloria/Judica through to the deprivation of even light at the vigil.

    How beautiful and full of meaning!

    I will look attend the Easter ceremonies with a new understanding.

  69. VFR says:

    No veils; well, I wish we had a crucifix we could veil,
    just the 70’s “Jumpin’ Jesus” which should be permanently obscured from view.

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