Some time ago, I wrote a description of what happens in the Churches liturgy during Lent and how the liturgical changes should reflect our Lenten experience.
I bring this up because we are well into Lent and Passiontide is around the corner. In the older form of the Roman Rite we will begin to see some changes that reflect the intensity of the season as we come into the final stretch.
All around, as spring sets in, bushes and trees are being pruned, to help them grow and flower later on. This is a pattern in the Church’s liturgy and in the arc of our lives.
Here is something of what I wrote, slightly adjusted.
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. On First Passion Sunday in the older, traditional calendar (5th Sunday of Lent in the newer, post-Conciliar calendar), statues and images are draped in purple. That is why that Sunday 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 the 5th Sunday 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. You could, of course, unveil statues of the Pietà or Ecce Homo and the Crucified Lord after the Good Friday service.
Also, as part of the pruning, as of 1st Passion Sunday 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 (cf. GS 22).
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.