And we are to blame.
The historical consequences of Christ’s death on the cross are many. One of those, which the synoptic gospels agree on, is the rending of the veil in the temple, from top to bottom. When Christ had “breathed His last” breath, Mark and Luke record, “Then”; however, Matthew pronounces more audaciously and appropriately “Then, behold”. Thus, he drew attention to the tearing of the veil as a significant event resulting from Christ’s death.
It is a miracle of significant consequence for mankind’s relationship to God. The rending of the veil signified the laying open of a new and living way to God, allowing all Jews and Gentiles to draw near to the most holy place, to God’s Shechinah glory. They no longer required a high priest; Christ the High Priest granted access to God’s glorious radiance and presence. Christ the one-time sacrifice replaced the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. The death of Christ resolved many Old Testament mysteries; the death of Christ’s fleshly body, the rending of the veil of flesh, opened the way to the holy of holies.
Many of the Church fathers understood the significance of this miracle and sought to pursue the spiritual glory, which Matthew called us to “Behold” – the rending of the temple veil. The patristic and medieval readers of Scripture rightly understood that God has called us to a deeper union with Him, to seek His glory as John, Peter, and James experienced at the Transfiguration. In historical and theological terms, God is calling us to pursue the beatific vision of Christ, exalted in glory. The vision of Christ is not something to be enjoyed only when we reach eternal glory with Him; we should expect to increase in that vision here and now.
As Hans Boersma says, “The final end of human beings is the vision of God.” A vision which we are to pursue and express in our Personal Mission Field daily as we love God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is only as we pursue God’s vision for us, that we can live for God’s glory and communicate that vision to others.
However, in the second half of the 2nd millenium and in the beginning of the 3rd, the way through the veil has been obscured by the “otherworldliness, aversion to materiality, and ascetic self-denial” (Boersma) and the many other pursuits of self.
How many other personal impediments shield us from seeing the glory of Christ? Today’s primarily self-centered and worldly concerns have tacked that veil back to the rafters which once held it up. So clouded is our vision of the good life with temporal and material things, that the vision of Christ in glory has little appeal. The light of Christ that formerly emboldened and comforted believers has been darkened once again. We have separated ourselves from access to God’s glory, and hardly think to pursue heavenly concerns amid our many earthly endeavors.
An eternal perspective no longer prevails among the followers of Christ. As Hans Boersma explains, “we have done away with the belief that the purpose (telos) of things lies sacramentally embedded within them.” We do not much consider that we were created for a purpose, for the glory of God. Our understanding of who we are as God’s creation has changed as the vision of God has been obstructed. Isaiah 55:10-11 points out that God’s Word does not return void; yet today seem less inclined to depend exclusively on God. We think we know the way but as Isaiah told us, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” And Micah tells us (Mic 3:6) “Therefore you shall have night without vision, and you shall have darkness without divination; the sun shall go down on the prophets, And the day shall be dark for them.”
We must behold, look beyond, and pass through the torn veil once again; we must return to the Scriptures to recover the full scope of what Christ did on the Christ. Only when we open His Book, and eagerly pursue His Word will we remove the tacks of worldliness, so that the veil falls to the floor, allowing us access to the vision of Christ once again.
We need a readjustment in our vision of the Christian life. Let us pursue the beatific vision of Jesus, to see Christ in all His glory, to seek a Christology which empowers us to love Him above all else. Then we will behold the brokenness in our lives and, beholding Christ as our all in all, we will know revival, renewal, and awakening.