Today the Church enters into Passiontide, the solemn final two weeks of the Lenten fast. During this time, the Church keeps in her mind the Passion and Death of her Divine Spouse. She mourns for Him and suffers with Him and dies with Him so that she may rise with Him.
There are many liturgical changes accompanying these final two weeks. The Church sings the Preface of the Holy Cross rather than that of Lent; she omits Psalm 42 at the beginning of Holy Mass, as in a Mass for the Dead; and, also as in a Mass for the Dead, she omits the “Glory be” during Holy Mass, as a kind of double-fasting from any hint of joyful praise in the Liturgy. Instead, and most notably, she veils her images, especially of the Holy Cross of the Savior.
The Veiling of Images during Passiontide takes its inspiration from the Gospel of Passion Sunday, in which we sing that Our Lord miraculously hid Himself from the Jews so that they would not kill Him. We also can connect the Veiling to the prophecy of Isaiah about the extent of the suffering endured by the Lord in His Passion: “Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals.” In His Passion, our Jesus hid His Beautiful Face from us. His Face was so covered with blood, spittle, and disfigurement that we hardly recognized Him, and so we veil His Sacred Image during Passiontide.
Passion Sunday often occurs near the two great feast days of St. Joseph and the Annunciation. The virtue of obedience to God’s Will is the common thread connecting these three liturgies. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph all teach us that, if we wish to be fruitful in divine love, we must become obedient even unto death, death on the Cross. St. Joseph obeyed God even when he did not understand the how or why and kept the Holy Family safe and secure. Our Blessed Mother obeyed God and so became the Vessel through which the Salvation entered the world. Jesus Christ obeyed His Father and received a Name above every Name, meriting His own exaltation and our salvation. If we wish to die with Him this Passiontide, our joyful task is to obey God in all aspects of our lives. Only in that way will we find salvation.
Father Joseph Previtali