Monday, April 11, 2011


Yesterday began the the beginning of Passiontide for Catholics. For the next two weeks many churches will cover their statues and crucifixes until Easter! I love long standing traditions like this one. Some accounts tell that it was put in place in order for the many illiterate Catholics to 'know' Lenten days were soon coming to an end. Others speak of deeper meanings still:

 "It probably derives from a custom, noted in Germany from the ninth century, of extending a large cloth before the altar from the beginning of Lent. 

This cloth, called the "Hungertuch" (hunger cloth), hid the altar entirely from the faithful during Lent and was not removed until during the reading of the Passion on Holy Wednesday at the words "the veil of the temple was rent in two." 

Neither stained windows or stations of the cross are ever veiled. But some churches go so far as to remove the statues completely. 

My Mother used to tell us when that when she was a girl she remembers her mother covering all the statues in the house during the 3 hours agony on Good Friday and sitting quietly with her brothers. I was so moved by those stories I have always encouraged my own children to do the same ( we have never mastered the sitting quietly piece so instead we pray the rosary and stations and the little ones color in saint coloring books and string rosary beads. ) They all really enjoy doing so. Time seems to stand  blessedly still for  a few short hours. 

My personal favorite of all the holy week services is Tenebrae and is sadly not a local custom. All the candles and lights are extinguished from the church on Spy Wednesday or Maundy Thursday, and the congregation bangs on the pews to show the utter chaos the ensues as Judas betrays Our Blessed Lord. Absolutely chilling. What a rich tradition. 

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