“And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom.” Mark 15:38
The veil that separates the created world from the transcendent Creator has been rent, torn by the death of Jesus Christ. Though we cannot, in this world, comprehend the vast reality of the Creator who is apart from and above the created order, we have, in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, a demonstration of the heart of God: God’s demonstrated love for humanity. The veil that has separated us is removed, but at a great and eternal cost.
So long as we live here as creatures in this world, there is a separation between the Holy of Holies and the world as we experience it, between the transcendent Creator and the creature. There is a profound distinction but also a merciful connection thanks to the grace and love of God.
A similar distinction and connection exists between the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and our lives. We cannot achieve on our own what Jesus has in his self-offering but we can be connected to his sacrifice thanks to the grace and love which he provides through his one, perfect and sufficient Sacrifice, the sacrifice that he has made and in which we participate most particularly and profoundly by sharing in the Holy Communion of his body and blood as we do today in the Mass of the Pre-sanctified.
In order to cross the threshold of the veil, we must embrace the Sacrifice of Christ freely given for us on the Cross. In order to cross that threshold beyond which we may be given the vision of God, we must accept the awful reality of the suffering and death of our Saviour. Crossing that threshold is our purpose and the goal of our life as human beings created in the image of God, but separated by sin and death.
The existence of God is what has been called a “demonstrated unknowablity” in the words of Fr. P. Cleevely in the Chesterton debate in 2014. Because we are mortal creatures there is a sense in which we see the reality of God, as St. Paul put it, “as through a glass, darkly”, The glass or mirror is an analogy with the early mirrors used at the time of the Roman Empire which were polished brass giving very limited reflections of objects.
St. Paul goes on, “but then we shall see. . . (that is once we cross through the veil, across the threshold,) we shall see face to face”, that is by virtue of the Sacrifice of Jesus for us; by virtue of the fact that he has torn the veil of separation for us to enter into the nearer presence and the vision of God.
The cost of the sacrifice that Jesus made is immeasurable by human standards; it has cosmic and eternal dimensions. The removal of the veil by the sacrifice of Christ is the very axis of time and eternity, of history and of meaning.
In his addresses about the Power of God: given on Good Friday in 1951, Dom Gregory Dix, a Monk of Nashdom Abbey in England, described the sacrifice of Jesus in the following words. He describes the depth of the horror and awe of the sacrifice Jesus made for us to rend the veil.
[See previous post for the Dix Quotation.]
And so today, on this Good Friday, at the axis of time and eternity, we give thanks for Jesus, the one who has gone before us, through the veil, and who offers us the way, the way to cross the threshold of hope into the vision of God.
“And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom.”