Wednesday, January 25, 2017

From “Beyond The Pale” To “Behind The Veil”

January 26, 2017
Thursday, Week Three, Year I
Hebrews 10:19-25; Psalm 24; Mark 4:21-25.

From “Beyond The Pale” 
To “Behind The Veil”

All humans, whether they are aware of it or not “long to see God’s face.” This is the only ultimate fulfillment of the human spirit, of human existence.

But God is “veiled” from us. The very humanity that makes us long to see God in all his infinite Truth, Goodness and Beauty is the “veil” that keeps us from doing so. We can only know anything according to our human nature’s way of knowing beings. We see each one as one  individual, intelligible structure, image or idea. To “know” is to affirm or “breathe into” recognized existence what we see with an affirming “word” of knowledge that echoes God’s creative word: “A tree!” “Sunshine!” “Volcano!” This is Metaphysics 101.

But God cannot be grasped in a single concept. We simply can’t comprehend All Truth or respond to the reality of All Goodness in a single act of our intellect or will. Even more so while we have to work through physical brain cells!

Jewish ritual expressed all this symbolically. In the temple was the “tabernacle” (tent or sanctuary) that had two Hebrew names: the “dwelling,” where Yahweh dwelt among his people, and the “meeting place,” where Yahweh met with Israel through Moses. It had two rooms or “tents”: the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place or “Holy of Holies.” A veil separated them. Once a year the high priest alone went behind the veil with the blood of sacrifice to offer for sins.[1]

All this was symbolic. The sanctuary was an image of heaven where God dwells, veiled from our eyes. But what Jesus did was the real thing. He “opened up for us a new and living way” into the real presence of God, passing “through the veil” of his own flesh in death. Now our flesh no longer blocks us from immediate access to God — not if we are “in Christ,” having become his body by Baptism. In Christ we are where he is, “behind the veil” with him.

Through “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the favor of sharing in God’s own divine life, we are already essentially united with God as we will be in heaven. We have within us right now what will be our everlasting joy in heaven. We are one with God, sharing in his life, although we can lose it.

While we are in our bodies we can reject God’s life through mortal sin. But if we have him, we have him. And that is what we celebrate in Mass: Jesus has entered the Sanctuary, and we have entered with him. Therefore “Let us keep firm in the hope we profess... and consider how to rouse each other to love and good works.” Hebrews is urging hope; and specifically a hope that empowers us to act as Christ to one another.

Getting right down to the concrete, Hebrews says we should keep coming to Mass! and not ‘absent ourselves from the assembly, as some do, but encourage one another.” And this “all the more because you see that the Day draws near.” Our time is passing into God’s time. When the veil of our flesh is removed, we who “in Christ” are already “behind the veil” will experience fully where we are and what we have become. Mass is a preview.

We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”[2]

Meditation: Can I draw hope in Mass from knowing I have already “arrived”?

[1] McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, “tabernacle.”
[2] 1John 3:2.

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