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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Friday, March 23, 2012
Fifth Sunday of Lent 25th March 2012
Hide and Seek
As we enter the last two weeks of Lent, a period known as Passiontide, and turn our hearts and minds to the suffering and death of Christ in a particular way, it might seem strange to cover up all our crosses and crucifixes.

The reality is that we see them so often in churches and religious art that it becomes very easy not to notice them. Moreover, with them being worn around the neck on chains or even hanging from rosaries dangling about various parts of the anatomy of celebrities and ordinary members of the public, the impact of this “infamous gibbet” becomes little less than just another part of the fashion world.

In the past, the Gospel on the Fifth Sunday of Lent was John 8:46-49, the discussion between Jesus and the Jewish authorities which ended in a frustrated attempt to stone Him. Following on from that day, the Gospel readings all evoked the increasing tension between Jesus and the authorities. In a way, Christ’s Passion had begun and so the period was called Passiontide. A remnant of this is the obligatory use of the first Preface of the Lord’s Passion during the Fifth Week of Lent. Thus, veiling the statues helps us to concentrate on the essentials of Christ’s redemptive work.

Today, in the New Rite, St John’s Gospel sees Christ on the cross as a lantern lifted high in the darkness for everyone to see. Indeed, he likens it to the staff that Moses raised in the desert so that everyone who looks upon it might be saved from the sting of the serpent which brought death, and today leads us into sin. But do we see it this way or give it a second glance?

On a personal note, veiling the statues always makes me reflect on how the apostles ran away leaving Christ alone in the Garden of Gethsemane as he knelt there offering up prayers “aloud and in silent tears.” This then serves to shamefully remind me just how shallow and lukewarm my devotion to Christ can be and how easily I abandon Him in the face of the small challenges of this life.

The reality is that the kind of death Christ endured was appalling, horrific and grotesque – we should be shocked by it. We should be made speechless at the thought of the Word-made-flesh and Splendour of the Father ending His life on a Roman cross choking out the last agonised words of His ministry to His executioners, to Mary and John, and to His Father.

Perhaps then the veiling of these images will give us time to get un-used to the crucifixion. Then, when our crosses are unveiled on Good Friday we will see not a successful brand of the Church, nor a fashion accessory, but the image of our Saviour in His agony and understand anew God’s love for us shining through the pained face of Jesus.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:02 am