Veneration of the Cross

Date: March 2, 2024
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Question: We have a large, fixed crucifix in the front of our community’s chapel. We cover it with a violet veil after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. A different large crucifix is used for the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, and after the liturgy on that day, it remains in front of the altar with lit candles for the rest of the day; and we genuflect to it, as specified in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM] 274. Based on the directions for U.S. dioceses (given in the missals published here under the heading for the Fifth Sunday of Lent) that “crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion,” I assume that our fixed chapel crucifix should be uncovered without ceremony after the Good Friday liturgy has ended. (1) Is this correct – that all crosses, not just the one used for veneration, should be uncovered by late Friday? Also, our practice has been to remove the cross used for veneration at the end of the day on Good Friday, and not to leave it displayed, with candles, etc., on Holy Saturday. (2) Is this correct/permissible? And (3) would we continue to genuflect, now to the fixed crucifix in the sanctuary, on Holy Saturday, or does this genuflection only apply to the cross used for veneration? -- P.T., Michigan


Answer: The full rubric for the Fifth Sunday of Lent on covering images reads: "The practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from this Sunday may be observed, if the Conference of Bishops so decides. Crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil."


For Good Friday the missal has the following indications in the rubrics:


“When the adoration has been concluded, the Cross is carried by the Deacon or a minister to its place at the altar. Lighted candles are placed around or on the altar or near the Cross.”


After the celebration has concluded: “After the celebration, the altar is stripped, but the Cross remains on the altar with two or four candlesticks.”


With respect to the above procedure the 1988 circular letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship “Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts,” Paschalis Solemnitatis, offers the following pointers:


“71. After the celebration, the altar is stripped; the cross remains, however, with four candles. An appropriate place (for example, the chapel of repose used for reservation of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday) can be prepared within the church, and there the Lord's cross is placed so that the faithful may venerate and kiss it and spend some time in meditation.”


It is above all to this cross that the genuflection would be addressed as per GIRM 274:


“A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.”


Later, for Holy Saturday, Paschalis Solemnitatis says:


74. The image of Christ crucified or lying in the tomb or the descent into hell, which mystery Holy Saturday recalls, as also an image of the sorrowful Virgin Mary, can be placed in the church for the veneration of the faithful.


Therefore, to answer our reader’s questions I would suggest that the above documents offer more than one option, depending on the circumstances and structure of the particular church or chapel.


From the description given, I suppose that our reader’s convent chapel is not excessively large, and the habitual large cross behind the altar would be difficult to remove after unveiling.


With this in mind, I would respond to question one by saying that after the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, the altar is stripped and all crosses in the chapel and sacristy are unveiled. Other images remain veiled until shortly before the Easter Vigil. All these veils are removed with no ceremony.


The cross used for adoration should remain on or near the altar, with two or four candles, for veneration and meditation. It is primarily toward this cross that the genuflection is made, even if there are other crosses visible in the same chapel. In this case both crosses could be left visible.


If placing the cross used for the adoration on or near the altar might prevent the faithful (above all, those who might not have attended the evening celebration) from venerating and kissing it, then the cross may be placed in some other suitable location within the church or chapel.


Consequentially, and this responds to the second question, it is not good practice to remove entirely the cross used for adoration after unveiling the other cross.


Finally, with respect to the third question: Although the primary context for genuflecting toward the cross on Good Friday and Holy Saturday is toward the cross used for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, the custom could also apply to crosses in other chapels.


For example, many religious communities attend the Easter triduum at their local parish rather than carry out the celebrations in their own chapels. In such cases, on returning home they could unveil the cross in their chapel and genuflect toward the cross on the evening of Good Friday and during Holy Saturday.


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Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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