The crucifix, statues, and baptismal font are all robed in royal purple. It makes Lent feel more real. Even after the Ash Wednesday fasting, meatless Fridays, and weekly devotion to the Stations of the Cross, it just gets more real when the icons are covered.
I am reminded of the Jewish Shiva tradition of covering mirrors during the mourning period when a loved one dies. The grieving are not concerned with personal appearances when confronted with deep loss. There is less temptation to worry about shaving or wearing makeup when there are no mirrors.
Prior to Holy Week, we cover our visual reminders of the joy of Christ's resurrection and triumph over death. We force ourselves to spend time in anticipation, in the desert with Christ before his victory. Shrouding the icons of rebirth through baptism, the crucifix as an instrument of redemption, and His saints remind us of the grief all of human-kind is about to experience.
As we enter the Holy Sanctuary, we know the story of how the worst of humanity plays out and culminates in the death of God on this earth. We know we must witness Christ's journey into Jeruselum, his betrayal in the garden, his sentencing by Pilate, his torture at the hands of the soldiers, and finally his death.
The shrouds help us resist the temptation to move past all the pain to the climax of the Easter story. But we must sit, instead, in this place, in this state of intense waiting.
It is not time yet, but it is coming.