On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations.
The veil is a metaphor used throughout the Bible to describe our separation from God. It symbolizes the spiritual barrier erected by our brokenness—the impasse that stands between the sacred and the sinful, the Creator and the created, God and man.
In the book of Exodus, for example, Moses covers his visage with a veil to quell the fear of the Israelites who had seen Moses’s radiant face—a fear that has its roots in the deep, innate knowledge that none of them were worthy to witness the glory of God, even in its most vestigial form. Consequently, Moses’s veil, through its concealment of God’s light, serves as a reminder of the immense gulf that exists between the God’s radiant holiness and our reproachful selves.
Later, the veil of Moses is replaced by the temple veil, a curtain designed to sequester the inner sanctum of God’s symbolic abode from the rest of the world. Under this system, the contrast between God and humanity becomes even more highlighted. The High Priest, as the sole individual permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, is commanded to strictly follow an elaborate set of rules and guidelines before crossing into the space behind the veil; the consequence of disobedience is death. God leaves no room for imperfection within the veil, nor a middle ground between obedience and condemnation.
But then we come to Christ’s crucifixion. Immediately following the death of Jesus, the synoptic gospels include the following observation:
And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom.
With Christ’s sacrifice, the veil is destroyed. The spiritual barrier between God and man is broken. In a figurative sense, the stroke that slices the veil from top to bottom becomes representative of Christ’s own mission as the Emmanuel, falling from heaven to earth, from glory to servitude, from life to death. In doing so, the parting of the shroud, like the splitting of the seas, becomes a living symbol of God opening a means for his people to enter into salvation.
What is the end result? The privilege to see God face to face, and the ability to reflect Him. As Paul writes in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians,
Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away… so all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:14, 18
What lies behind the veil, then, is not merely the presence of the Father, but also the veiled image of God which shines in every individual. It is this image which was recovered in the person of Jesus Christ; it is this gift which is freely given to us when we turn to Him. As we reflect on Christ’s coming during this season of Advent, let us not hide our faces like Moses or tremble like the High Priest, but let us simply turn our hearts to the Lord; let us rely on his Spirit in the midst of school work and extracurriculars and personal relationships to transform us and mold us into the image of Christ; and let us reflect his glory without reservation, without veils, so that we may be brought into an intimate relationship with our Creator and Redeemer, with Christ, face to face.
Daniel Shin’22 is a freshman in Wigglesworth.