A woman attending my Bible study commented that she never knew the meaning of the veil of the sanctuary being torn at the crucifixion. The next Sunday, our pastor began his homily speaking of this veil. In the Jewish temple there was a veil separating the rest of the space from the Holy of Holies, the room where God dwelt. No one could enter the Holy of Holies except the high priest once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The rest of God’s people were restricted to different spaces: the Court of the Women, the Court of Priests, and the Court of Gentiles. They had no direct access to God. The veil being torn in two has profound symbolism. By his death, Jesus made it possible for all of us, not only the high priest, to stand in the presence of God.
Original sin had created not just a veil but a brick wall between God and us humans. We had no hope of ever enjoying life with our Creator. Only after Jesus made atonement were we again privileged to look forward to a future being at-one with God. In fact, thanks to the gift of Holy Communion, we are intimately united with God already on earth. Moreover, we come into God’s presence when we walk into church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.
The odd thing about the Holy of Holies was that it was a totally dark room. This too is symbolic. We do not perceive God with our physical eyes. At certain moments we might realize that God is present: viewing an awesome scene in nature, holding our newborn in our arms, feeling an overwhelming sense of peace or joy, or being the recipient of some unexpected blessing or miracle. And sometimes when all is dark in our lives, such as when a loved one dies, or we lose our job, or we’ve been the victim of a crime, our faith makes us aware that God is with us. That unusual photo of the galaxy referred to as the eye of God is a reminder that God is always looking on us with love. The craft of the indigenous Americans known as the Oyo de Dios (eye of God) symbolizes seeing and understanding the mystery of God.
Scripture says that no one can look on God and live. A quaint story in the Bible is that when Moses asked to see God, he was only permitted to see the back of God passing by. But we can get glimpses of God in our lives: see God shining in his work of creation and in the faces of other people. We can realize (see with “real eyes”) that good things that happen in our lives are God present and acting on our behalf. So let’s tear the veil from before our faces and behold the glory of God.
Another episode in the story of Moses tells how when he came from God’s presence, his face was so radiant that he had to wear a veil over his face! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were in God’s presence so much that we reflected his glory to other people?
When do you or have you felt the presence of God?