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Saturday, March 17, 2018

PASSIONTIDE - Veils and interior life

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The hour has now come for the Son of Man to be glorified...

The last two weeks of Lent are known as “Passiontide.”  A new preface is prayed these last weeks of Lent before the Holy Holy Holy.  The Lord's Passion, his suffering, is meant to take center stage, and the veils that we see over the sacred art around us are meant to help us achieve the goals of the Church's liturgy in these last two weeks.  Here’s what we should be doing differently.

Ultimately all of Lent, but especially these last two weeks, leads toward the interior life.  The church enhances its exterior silence so that we can foster an interior silence. This is also why the music of Lent is meant to be more meditative and subdued, even with less instrumentation when possible.  Thirdly, there are to be no flowers in decorating the sanctuary, and other decorations are diminished as well.

As for the veils, although we have only a couple statues and about five images in our church, All the friends of God, the saints, humbly take a step back from the foreground for these two weeks so that we have the chance to focus directly on God, their one true love.

With all this "quieting down" of the sensory experience, we are encouraged to focus on the proclamation of the Word of God and the memorial of the Lord’s sacrifice made present for us in the Eucharist.

Fittingly with that intention, the Stations of the Cross, which are left un-veiled, draw our focus more intensely.  In a sense, they are the one thing we are encouraged to meditate upon.

In a symbolic way, we can see this time as a parallel to when Jesus was in the tomb. The Bridegroom is “taken away” so to speak, though this happens most intensely for us on Good Friday, when the tabernacle is left empty.  We can also imagine what Mary must have felt like for three years when her son was out and about, surrounded by huge crowds so that it was hard for her to get close to him.   But at the same time, we know that the Lord is within us, just as Mary always knew the union of her Son's heart with hers.

And it is there, in our hearts, that The Lord desires for the Law to be written, as we heard in Jeremiah the prophet.  This passage is the longest quotation of the Old Testament that you will find in the New Testament, in Hebrews 8.  Obviously it was very important to the Christian faithful, because that New Covenant was also mentioned by Jesus at the Last Supper: the blood of the new and eternal covenant.  Christ's sacrifice allows the Law of God (his Word made flesh) to be written on our hearts.

Instead of looking for God outside of ourselves, we need to remember that the Lord is speaking within us, through His still, small voice.  The power of silence is discovered most profoundly at this time.  Let us allow the word of God to enter more deeply into our hearts, to speak to us, to form us and shape us.  Next week when we especially devote much more time to the Passion of Christ for "Palm Sunday" or "Passion Sunday," may we truly allow the Sacred Scripture to echo within us as it resounds through this Church.

It is in the wounds of Christ that we are healed.  The Blood of Jesus washes away our sins and renews us.  Monday evening is a powerful chance for us to know this truth in our own persons.  I now invite Fr. Richard McAlear to share some more about how he wishes to help us all encounter that healing touch of Christ during his days here in the parish.

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