The Veiling of the Church

By Tony Capobianco

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Holy Mother Church enters Passiontide with Her Lord as His Hour draws near and the events of Holy Week unfold. The cross, through the eyes of the flesh, casts what appears to be the darkest of shadows as it causes a most sorrowful eclipse of Light, Truth, and Glory. The Church contemplates the great mysteries of Holy Week and She knows that one day, in the fullness of time, prior to the return of Her Lord, that She too must follow Her Lord into His Passion and undergo an ultimate trial that will shake the faith of many of her dear children. During this great tribulation the glory of the Church will become veiled just as the glory of Jesus Christ was veiled during passiontide and Holy Week. As with all matters, these supremely sorrowful mysteries must be met with the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. All true followers of Christ must carry the cross and doing so is only meritorious if it is embraced as God’s will. For that is the only way to truly unite our sufferings with His suffering and it is the only way to unite our crosses with His Holy Cross.

In his magnum opus, The Liturgical Year, Dom Prosper Gueranger explains why Holy Mother Church veils crucifixes and statues beginning on Passion Sunday,

but when the dreaded day of Good Friday comes, purple would not sufficiently express the depth of her grief; she will clothe herself in black, as men do when mourning the death of a fellow-mortal; for Jesus, her Spouse, is to be put to death on that day: the sins of mankind and the rigours of the divine justice are then to weigh him down, and in all the realities of a last agony, He is to yield up His Soul to His Father.

The presentiment of that awful hour leads the afflicted mother to veil the image of her Jesus: the cross is hidden from the eyes of the faithful. The statues of the saints, too, are covered; for it is but just that, if the glory of the Master be eclipsed, the servant should not appear. The interpreters of the liturgy tell us that this ceremony of veiling the crucifix during Passiontide, expresses the humiliation to which our Saviour subjected Himself, of hiding Himself when the Jews threatened to stone Him, as is related in the Gospel of Passion Sunday. The Church begins this solemn rite with the Vespers of the Saturday before Passion Sunday.

Holy Mother Church is a beautiful and wise Mother and as such there is nothing superfluous in Her rich Traditional Liturgy. The tradition of veiling crucifixes and the statues of the Saints during Passiontide appropriately affects the senses of Her children so that they may be drawn more deeply into the sacred mysteries. The sense of sight is a powerful sense and the sight of Holy Mother Church in mourning evokes a strong emotional and spiritual response. In addition to this, the veiling during Passiontide has a profound theological meaning as Dom Prosper Gueranger astutely explained in the preceding quote, wherein it represents the humiliation of Christ. Simultaneously, it represents the humiliation of the Church near the end of this present world. Therefore, this veiling also has an eschatological sense. The humiliation of the good by the wicked is often accompanied with and followed by persecution. Just as the Lord Jesus was scourged, mocked, and crucified, so also in a similar manner will the Church be scourged, mocked, and crucified. The Body must follow the Head.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about the Church’s ultimate trial,

675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.573 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth574 will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. the supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.575

676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. the Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,576 especially the ‘intrinsically perverse’ political form of a secular messianism.577

677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.578 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.579 God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.580

Could these times be here in the near future? Or perhaps they are upon us now? Yes it is possible that the prophesied days are upon us. Does this possibility seem crazy? No less than three Cardinals of the Catholic Church have recently suggested this possibility. Two of the three Cardinals, Cardinal Eijk of the Netherlands and former head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, Cardinal Muller specifically referenced the above excerpts from the Catechism. In an interview, Cardinal Burke said, “Then perhaps we have arrived at the End Times.” Clearly these Cardinals do not think that it is absurd to watch the signs of the times as Our Blessed Lord has instructed. To read what these Cardinals have said, click the buttons below.

If we are not living in the end times, then we are living in a type or a forerunner to the end times. One thing is for certain, Our Blessed Lord told us to stay awake and to watch for His glorious return. Studying, meditating, and contemplating the Passion of Christ is essential for the disciple of Christ and it will produce much good fruit. Doing so will cultivate a more intimate relationship with Jesus. These practices also help prepare a soul to to carry her own cross. Furthermore it readies the soul to face the ultimate trial of the Church if that trial should come during her earthly life. Ignorance of the certainty that such a trial will eventually arrive is potentially deadly. A man cannot see that which has been veiled without the eyes of faith. When Christ entered His Passion, how did mortal eyes perceive Him? Without the eyes of faith, He appeared as a condemned and beaten sinner and criminal as He carried His cross. Appearances are often misleading to fallen man. Yet with the eyes of faith we see things as they truly are. It is only through the eyes of faith that we are able to see something that the world could not see, namely, the Spotless Lamb of God carrying the holy altar that was His Cross. As the Lord marched to Calvary His glory and divinity were veiled. The forces of darkness appeared triumphant as the Light of the World was eclipsed. So too, when the light of the Church is eclipsed, will the forces of darkness once again appear to be triumphant. Yet what seems to be Hell’s greatest victory is in reality its most spectacular defeat.

If the glory of the Catholic Church shall be veiled before the Lord returns, some may wonder what exactly that glory consists of? What are examples of Her glory? Would this eclipse of the Church’s glory be evident? Would such an eclipse indicate that the Church has defected or erred? Who could withstand such seemingly impossible times?

First and foremost, the Church’s glory consists of Her very nature. The Church, like Her Lord, is both human and divine. She is human in that mortal men govern the Church and transmit the Sacred Deposit of Faith here on earth. Yet She is also divine because She was established by the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. Furthermore, the Catholic Church is divine because Her doctrine is inerrant, pure, and holy. Only a divine institution could withstand the millennia long assaults of the world and the Devil. The preternatural enemies of the Church never sleep. An element of the Church’s divinity stems from a promise granted Her by Her Lord. Christ promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church,

[18] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

As mentioned already, holiness of doctrine as well as being established by Jesus Christ are examples of the Church’s glory. Still, more examples of the Church’s glory are evident from Her good fruit. The good fruits produced by the Church are so numerous that an entire book could be written detailing their splendor. For the sake of brevity only a few examples are given here. These fruits are connected to the good, the true, and the beautiful.

One such example is the fact that the Catholic Church built Christendom and converted much of the ancient pagan world to the One True Faith. Prior to Catholicism, the world was lost in darkness and cruelty. Pagan Rome, the lone superpower during the early days of the Church, persecuted the Church and pridefully tried its best to annihilate the Church from the face of the earth. Against all the odds, only one of the two remain and the victor of course was the Catholic Church. Perhaps more amazing is the fact that the Roman Empire eventually converted to the Catholic Faith. These historical facts defy human reason and yet they remain verifiable facts.

Every habitable continent contains gentiles that have converted to the Catholic Faith. Diversity is a word that is thrown around in liberalism in modern times but true diversity existed within the Catholic Church from the beginning. Men, women, slaves, freemen, Kings, Queens, every race and nationality worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ, side by side on their knees. That is authentic diversity and another good fruit of the Church.

Additional good fruits such as the splendid architecture, art, literature, and music produced by Christendom are easily recognizable. Notre Dame, Le Mont Saint-Michel, and Chartres Cathedral in France, Kölner Dom in Germany, St. Stephen's Basilica in Hungary, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and St. Peter’s Basilica in Italy are all breathtaking structures which stir the soul to move toward God. Some of the most beautiful art of all time was created by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Giotto di Bondone, Fra Guglielmo Agnelli, Fra Angelico, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio, and Michelangelo. Amongst the greatest authors are St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, and J.R.R. Tolkien. The greatest composers of all time include Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, St. Hildegard von Bingen, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Such beauty was created as a result of Catholic culture and such astounding beauty and goodness is a reflection of the Church’s glory.

There are countless more examples of the good fruit produced by the Church but for the purposes of this article, one more important thing is to be said and it relates to the above. The Catholic Church gave birth to the Western World and the Church was the mother of Europe and all Christian nations. As such the teachings of the Church were the heart of Christendom. It is the Church that nurtured Her children with the Holy Sacraments and imbued Her children with virtues. This nurturing also produced chivalry. Prior to Christ and His Church, self sacrifice was not considered to be virtuous nor something to be promoted. Also, Church teaching raised women to a status that they never enjoyed in the pagan or Jewish cultures of the past. The Church brought order to a chaotic world and this order allowed people to create wondrous architecture, art, literature, and music. The Catholic Church and her glorious teachings transformed the world from darkness to light. The Church’s teachings are good, true, and beautiful and the nations which followed them reflected the good, the true, and the beautiful to the degree to which they adhered to Church teaching.

Would the veiling of the Church’s glory be evident? Indeed it would. Perhaps one word best describes what would be seen as a result of this eclipse, confusion. There would be confusion about doctrine, the natural law, and reality itself. Heresy would be preached openly and largely go uncontested. Confused souls would not know how or why they were created. Without knowing how or why they were created, they would not understand original sin nor its effects and consequently they would not know that they need a Savior. Sister Lucia, one of the visionaries of Fatima, spoke of diabolical disorientation rising in the world. Diabolical disorientation and darkness increase and spread like a plague when the light of the Church’s glory is eclipsed. This diabolical disorientation would cause some faithful Catholics to secretly question whether or not the gates of Hell had prevailed.

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During this eclipse, one would expect to see chaos replace the order which was established by the Church. One would also expect to see that the Truth would be pridefully questioned and or even rejected. Furthermore, one would expect to see the apostasy of the nations that formed Christendom. Apostasy would spread around the globe like the a horrible virus until it became The Great Apostasy foretold of in Holy Scripture. As a consequence of this Great Apostasy, the formerly Catholic nations together with the world would pressure the Church to mistakenly feel sorrow for Her historical past. Additionally, this veiling of the Church’s glory would replace ripe fruit with rotten fruit. The wretched and tragic culture which lives in this era would see hideous and soulless architecture, art, and literature along with being subjected to bad tasteless music. The authentic diversity that is found in the Catholic Church and that was once found in Christendom would be replaced by a wicked imitation concocted by the world and the Devil. The Devil is ever the ape of God. This false diversity would be a “diversity” of the wicked and the acceptance of every form of sin and debauchery. In other words, the good, the true, and the beautiful would be replaced by the wicked, the false, and the hideous. During the Great Apostasy the Devil, who was a liar and murderer from the beginning, will deceive the nations and he will attempt to murder the life of grace in as many souls as possible and he will endeavor to do so through convincing them to serve and worship him through the Antichrist.

The diabolical disorientation caused by the eclipse of the glory of the Church raises a crucial question, can the Church defect or err? The answer is quite definitively, no. As quoted earlier, the Lord Jesus Christ promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church. In De Controversiis: Tomus II, On The Church, Doctor of the Church St. Robert Bellarmine teaches,

.... it is proven from the Scriptures, which speak on the reign of Christ. The Psalmist says, ‘His throne is as the sun in my sight, and just as the moon completed forever, and a faithful witness in the sky... and I will place his seed in age upon age and his throne as a day of heaven.’ ‘In the days of those kingdoms God will raise the kingdom of heaven which will never be destroyed: and his kingdom will be handed to another people.’ ‘And for his kingdom there will be no end.’ These passages cannot be understood except about the fact that the true and visible Church of Christ is not going to perish. For the Kingdom of Christ, without a doubt, is his true Church. One cannot call a few secret men dispersed and separated from each other a kingdom, where one does not know the other such as the invisible Church of the Lutherans. For the kingdom is a multitude of men gathered who know one another.

And again St. Bellarmine teaches,

The promise is clear from other passages without the name Church, such as in the last chapter of Matthew: ‘Behold I am with you even to the consummation of the age.’ Such words were spoken to a visible Church, evidently to the Apostles and the remaining disciples, whom the Lord spoke to on the day of his ascension. And since these men were not going to remain in the body even to the end of the world, it was necessary to say this promise pertained to their successors. Therefore St. Leo I and Leo II understand this on the perpetual duration of the Church.
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When the Church follows Her Beloved Lord into His Passion, Her glory will be veiled just as Her Sweet Savior’s Glory was veiled throughout His sorrowful Passion. This event is indeed a heavy cross and it would be an unbearable cross to carry except for the grace of God. Our model for these times is the beloved Apostle, St. John. St. John faithfully remained at the foot of the Cross. How was St. John able to do so? The answer is because he remained next to the Most Blessed Mother. Cultivating a strong and healthy devotion to as well as a relationship with Our Lady is pleasing to the Lord and not only that, but doing so provides a powerful protection against the diabolical disorientation of the age. Faithfully wearing the Brown Scapular and meditatively praying the holy Rosary daily bestows among other great favors, a reminder that he who wears it is truly wrapped under the the protection of the Heavenly Mantle of the Virgin Most Powerful. There is no doubt that remaining steadfastly near Our Lady of Sorrows helped enable St. John to receive an abundance of grace, for She is full of grace and She always leads souls to Her Divine Son. In Romans 5: 20 St. Paul says, “where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” Therefore the darker the days become, the greater the outpouring of God’s grace to grant us light and divine assistance to persevere til the end. The darker the night, the nearer is the majestic return of the Son.

To read the related Virgo Potens series which presents St. Bellarmine’s ecclesiology, click on the following buttons: