Tearing the Veil before God’s Presence

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on April 8, 2015

in Blogs

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Eye of God Galaxy

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.

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Oyo de Dios

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?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gabrielle Renoir April 10, 2015 at 7:09 pm

I can remember back, with clarity, to age two or three, Sister, and I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t acutely aware of the presence of God (as you can imagine, that alone has kept me from some sin, though it’s imperfect, of course, I really don’t want to sin because I love God and respect his infinite honor, and I find the more I love him, the more aware I become of even the smallest sin). I had a hard time understanding St. Augustine’s difficulties with the substance of God, which is unknowable, of course. Finally, though, Augustine and I came to terms, and I love reading his works now. My goal in life has always been to increase in intimacy with God, and especially with God the Son, Jesus Christ. I can’t imagine going through a day, or even an hour, and not being aware of God’s presence. He is the first thing I think of when I awake, and the last thing I think of as I go to sleep each night. He is my constant companion and the One I love most.

Regarding the tearing of the veil in the temple, it is a Jewish custom for a man, when first hearing of a loved one’s death, to rip his shirt, etc. The tearing of the veil, I have read, had something to do with this custom as well since Jesus was a pious Jew. I love your analogy of the dark room and how we do not perceive God with our human – and imperfect! – eyes. Someday, though, I hope to see my Maker face-to-face, and with clarity. I pray to St. Joseph to help me with that problem.

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Kathleen Glavich, SND April 12, 2015 at 1:46 pm

You are blessed, Gabrielle! Thanks for connecting the tearing of the veil with the mourning custom of tearing clothes. I had never heard that before.

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