Friday, December 20, 2013

Veiling: The Tabernacle and You

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Rockville, MD.  Photo courtesy of Farragutful

I'm sure you ladies (and gentlemen) have read some of the passages of the Old Testament.  You may have come across the description of the tabernacle which was basically a tent that the Hebrews carried around in the desert.  One of the key descriptions was the veil.  Basically it was a large curtain meant to divide the outside of the tabernacle from the inside where God hung out aka the Most Holy of Holies.

Once the temple of Jerusalem was built, the tabernacle was housed inside it.  Once a year a Levitate priest, who was clean, would be allowed to cross the veil and go into the Most Holy of Holies.

In Luke 1:5-25 it is in this place, the Most Holy of Holies that we hear the announcement of the conception of St. John the Baptist.

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
 The veil in the tabernacle holds significance later on during Christ's Passion Story.
Matthew 27:51

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 
Here it's meant to signify our ability to access Christ easily.

The Church has veils in it's tabernacle to this day.  Often the interior of a tabernacle is lined in white silk (although not necessarily so).  The exterior is also sometimes covered with a veil.  This is both to tie into the tradition of keeping God in the most Holy of Holies but also because we, in this Life, cannot see the Mysteries of God.  It's a spiritual reminder.  Christ is still accessible but we don't know everything.

Veiled Mannequin, San Xavier Mission, Tucson, AZ

So too do women veil for a variety of reasons.  A show of piety and humility.  Some to keep focused on the Sacraments.  Nuns wear the veil because they are married to Christ.  And in a mystical way we are all called to be Brides of Christ (just not necessarily like nuns are).  So one could also view the veil as us remembering that we are to be Brides of Christ.

For others they are also reminded that they are houses too.  Housing children.  We're not just simply houses for children, but houses for the Lord.  The Bible speaks of our bodies as being temples.  We have no complete knowledge of what Christ has for our lives.  If the passage of Zechariah in the temple tells us anything its that Christ is always waiting for us and his ways are often mysterious.

St. Bernadette, Located in Grotto on San Xavier Mission, Tucson, AZ

For me personally, I view the veil of the tabernacle and the veil of the head as being one.  The Holy Spirit is within me and Christ remains in the tabernacle.  It's not just piety or humility that I veil but because I am an instrument in which Christ resides.  It's a reminder that I am to go out and proclaim the Good News while simultaneously attempting to keep myself sin-free (which believe me is difficult).

Now you may ask yourself, well why not take up the veil all the time.  I've pondered that question myself.  The outside veil of the tabernacle is not necessary if it has appropriate doors.  A person can tell a tabernacle with or without a veil.  Likewise women are not obligated to veil; even don't have to veil for the sacraments.  Making it obvious through ones actions that you are indeed a Christian, a tabernacle for Christ doesn't require a veil.  Rather though the interior veil (or some ornate equivalent) is necessary in both the tabernacle and in oneself.  Humility and temperance and so forth on the inside are important. 

So even if you choose not to have an outer veil, please keep in mind that you do (and should) have an inner veil at least.  You never know what Christ has in store for you when you accept him Body and Soul.

This post is part of the Advent Veiling Project Link-up.

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