Editorial: Iesus Autem Abscondit Se

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 31

“Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”

—The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, Rome. Photo: New Liturgical Movement

Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, Rome. Photo: New Liturgical Movement

Every year I am struck visually and spiritually by Passiontide.

In recent decades the observance of Passiontide has had a modest revival. In order to better prepare for Easter, we fast from images and sometimes instruments. For visual and aural people, this is a powerful shock to the system. Statues, paintings, and, in some places, even crucifixes are covered with purple fabric. The saints are there, in form, but we cannot see their image—they are veiled in mystery. It is the last penance of Lent: the giving up of images, which are, theologically, windows into the divine.

And then with the Triduum, we do not just fast but we also strip the altar in preparation for the Crucifixion; and on Good Friday we come to church, but there is no Mass. All of this makes the Easter Vigil more spectacular: the Easter fire in darkness and then a single candle leading to a church full of candlelight and the reappearance of the saints, beautiful flowers, and iconography of the Resurrection.


Yet what about the parishes that have nothing to cover up? No mysteries to veil, their churches and iconography have already been pared down to the minimum. We know the iconoclastic movement in the East in the seventh century and in the West in the sixteenth century, which sought not to cover up images for Passiontide, but to remove them completely. But the iconoclasm of the twentieth century has been even more surprising, since it was done by some within the Church. Instead of protecting icons, the monks destroyed them. What resulted was churches that are always Passiontide and never Easter; think of that!