Ask a Priest: Lenten Coverage
About 20 years ago I had a blog on the Winnipeg Archdiocesan web-site entitled “Ask a priest”. People would send in questions or ask for comments. This response is. I trust, still valid. In the present question, I was asked by Mireille for advice on these Lenten “changes” in her parish church that surprised her: Here are three changes you mention:
1/ resurrected corpus on the cross replacing image of crucified corpus; / 2/ sand in the Holy Water fonts during Lent; 3/ purple cloths covering up the crucifixes and statues during Lent. . ......................
1/ We certainly need reminders of the Crucified One who died for our sins.The most common crucifix depicts the dead Christ. But it is good that we show the Resurrection too, for we remember, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. I personally like this reminder in a church showing the crucifix with Christ risen.
2/ Sand in the Holy Water font in Lent. Hmm. I can understand how people might be shocked at this. Personally, I like the idea of being reminded of our dry Lent journey in the desert, longing for the living waters of baptism and thirsting and eagerly awaiting Easter. Symbolism is good, but it needs to be explained and the parishioners prepared.
Some have found that the Holy Water fonts filled with sand might turn them into hotel lobby ashtrays. Perhaps it’s simply better to drain the stoup, and have it clean and empty and maybe covered with a simple cross of purple cloth? In our church we keep the Holy Water fonts full. I can’t say one way is better than the other.
3/ The covering of the statues and crucifixes in violet or purple cloth during Lent is a very old tradition, going back many hundreds of years. Frequently the covering is done for the last week of Lent.
Again, the symbolism should signal the subdued and penitential nature of Lent, to gently lead us to curb our vices and joyfully prepare for the paschal mystery with minds and hearts renewed. This is the kind of climate you want to encourage in church decor. To cover the crucifix though, might be ambiguous since it is precisely the crucifix we should be contemplating in this season.
So you see, Mireille, I don’t have a final answer for you. I do agree that you are right to express concern. I hope when you are on the liturgy committee, you will be creative but also sensitive to the needs and concerns of the parishioners and that when appropriate changes are introduced the people will be well prepared for them.