Why do some parishes cover the crosses and images during Lent?

Can you explain the custom of covering the crosses and images in the Church during Lent? Is this allowed?

Provision for this custom is found in the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments’ document Paschales Solemnitatis (PS) which provides that, on the Saturday before the Fifth Sunday of Lent, “The practice of covering the crosses and images in the church may be observed if the episcopal conference should so decide. The crosses are to be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday. Images are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil” (PS 29).

In his book, Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, Msgr. Peter J. Elliott explains that this custom “helps us to concentrate on the great essentials of Christ’s work of Redemption” (p.67).

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has not decided to observe this custom, therefore, it is not permitted in the United States. The April 1995 Committee on Liturgy Newsletter (31:14) explains, “The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has never voted to continue the practice of covering crosses and images and so the practice, in accord with the rubric of the Sacramentary, has not been permissible for the past twenty five years. Individual parishes are not free to reinstate the practice on their own”.

However, not left to the decision of the conference is the custom of covering crosses after Mass on Holy Thursday. “It is fitting that any crosses in the church be covered with a red or purple veil, unless they have already been veiled on the Saturday before the Fifth Sunday of Lent” (PS 57).

Recommended reading: Mass Confusion

For more answers to common questions about Lent see Annual Lent Fight.

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