AM Psalm 148, 149, 150; PM Psalm 114, 115
Ecclus. 48:1-11; 2 Cor. 3:7-18; Luke 9:18-27
In our Epistle today, Paul leads us to the imagery of the veil that Moses wore over his face in Exodus 34, to illustrate the law as the Old Covenant, and Jesus Christ as the New Covenant. It’s an image that doesn’t always register with us, considering the only veil most of us have seen is a sheer wedding veil.
For the Jewish people of Paul’s time, the image of the veil also connected to them to additional stories from the Book of Exodus, and the inner room of the Tabernacle of Moses, called the Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies. Not only did they understand the veil prevented the ancients from being afraid of the radiance of God revealed in Moses’ face, they also understood it as the thick curtain that separated sinful humankind from the perfection of God. In short, they were accustomed–maybe even comfortable with the distance.
What Paul suggests in 2 Corinthians might even have sounded shocking. “What? A perfect God doesn’t want some distance between us and the Holy of Holies? Are you saying we’re equal to Moses?” Paul, however, is not speaking of the removal of this veil in a desecrating way or a way that suggests the holiness of God should be lessened. Instead, he reveals the possibility of this lifting of the veil to be rooted in a bold, brassy, brave sense of hope–the hope that God loves each of us in an intimate, gentle way. Under the veil of the law, the only hope in relationship was centered around being “good enough”–and most folks were pretty sure they weren’t. The perfection and the obscurity attributed to the Holy of Holies illustrated it. Conversely, the hope in Christ is that we, as part of God’s creation, were also in a position to grow into a new kind of perfection.
I think we, as Christians, in some ways, go through these growing pains in our own stories. Many of us can relate times when it was simply easier to put God up on the pedestal of “this is unattainable for me–so I won’t even try.” It might even have manifested itself in “…or I’ll refuse to believe, so there is no pedestal.” Many of us can identify with the fear the ancient Hebrews must have experienced when they saw Moses’ face shine with the light of God, because it seemed so improbable. “Why would God reveal God’s own holiness to us, outside the holy place?” Sometimes it’s simply more comfortable to keep God at a distance, and it’s actually the close proximity that scares us.
Growing closer to God also means to become more accepting of the intimacy of God in the everyday details of our daily lives–not a desensitization (like training an equine to no longer be afraid of a plastic shopping bag)–but to accept the reality that this relationship will change us in ways we can’t predict.
When is a time you preferred to keep God “behind the veil,” at a distance? What changed when you began to accept a more intimate relationship with God?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid