This Sunday when you enter the cathedral you will feel a little bit spooky and you begin to wonder whether the parish priest decided to celebrate halloween a day after April Fool's. No, its not halloween. This Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Lent is Passiontide Sunday, the Sunday we begin using the Preface of the Lord's Passion. From here on, the gospel according to John will recall the growing tension that would mark the relationship of Jesus and the Jewish authorities until it culminates in Good Friday. And as an added feature of this Sunday, all crucifixes, all sacred images (except the stations of the cross) are veiled with a purple cloth.
The veils have a purpose and some of them will be explained in the homilies by our mass celebrants, I presume. So I won't dwell on all those reasons. (Otherwise you won't listen anymore to the homilies.) Veils may make the already spooky cathedral spookier (I remember a high school seminarian who told me that when he was very young, every time he entered the dark cathedral he held tightly his mother's arms because he felt so afraid of the big statues staring down at him from above their perches.), but they are placed there for a reason, two reasons.
Veils remind us that in our life everything is still "veiled". We see things dimly. Now in an age of HDTV and powerful digital cameras, when seeing "more clearly" is all the rage, we are reminded as we enter the cathedral that life is not all that clear. I cannot understand everything though hard I may try, even if one is armed by ten PhDs and possesses ten times the wisdom of Solomon. Not everything in this life is clear. How I wanted it to be clearer.
Why do people do drugs? Why do good families suffer? Why did my ideal priest leave the priesthood? Why did this happy, loving couple break up? Why did my best seminarian decide one day that the priesthood is not for him? Why do people do what they do? I do not know! I don't have all the answers. Nothing is clear.
Even the presence of Jesus is not clear for many of us. In the past this is symbolized by the tabernacle veils. I am speaking of veils because the first veil that we usually see covering the tabernacle is what makes the tabernacle a tabernacle, a tent. The second veil which covers the inside of the tabernacle like a curtain hanging on its door, reminds us that even his presence, the presence of Jesus is "veiled". That is why we go to the Adoration Chapel to pray. (Partly also because it is air-conditioned. By the way we will be closing the adoration chapel in the near future for its much need repair. I hope people could help us in this project.) We go to the Adoration Chapel because there we can see Jesus more clearly. But that is the clearest we can get. No more.
Everything is still veiled.
And this is my second point. "Still." The veil is not permanent. A time will come when we can see clearly. Then we can ask the Lord: why?