A49 THE VEIL
St. Mark 15.vv.33-39
~ When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi lema sabachthani?", which means, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?". When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "Listen, he is calling for Elijah". And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down". Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was God's Son!". ~
"The veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom". If St. Mark recorded such an event and St. Matthew included it in his Gospel, it must have been considered a very significant event. The Temple veil was that which shielded the Holy of Holies from the gaze of the people. Only the Chief Priest, and he only, on the great day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was permitted to approach the Divine presence through the veil that hid the shekinah or glory of God. It was at the moment of Christ's death upon the Cross that the barrier was removed and the way made open to God. Jesus said "I am the Way and no-one comes to the Father but my me". The tearing of the veil was a sign that the work of Christ had come to its completion.
An intriguing thought is who did the tearing? However high the curtain, if it were torn by human agency, we should naturally expect it to be torn from the bottom to the top, not as St. Mark describes it. Whatever may lie behind the tradition, the symbolism is plain enough - it was an act of the Divine. By his death Jesus removed the barrier between man and God. We cannot tear the veil, "for all our Righteousness is as filthy rags" as the prophet declared, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The Cross opens the way to God; "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out", Jesus said.. Here we see the ultimate demonstration of God's love. We kill God's Son but his love persists. We look at Christ and say "That's what God is like, God loves me like that".
In imagination we listen to the tearing and say "Thanks be to God for his love expressed in Christ". Perhaps in this event there is a foreshadowing of Jesus in his lifting up, drawing all men to himself? What is this magnetism of the Cross?
As a child, not of the mysterious computer age, I was, and still am, fascinated by the power of magnetism to attract and repel. I still don't understand the physics of magnetism, but I understand still less of the spiritual magnetism or drawing power that operates between people. I simply accept that this is one of life's mysteries and realities. We describe people as having a magnetic personality, a facility to draw others to the self.
Sometimes we say, "I can't understand what she sees in him". We acknowledge that in human sexuality the attraction is often irresistible. We may seek to rationalise our judgements, very often with little success, but the magnetism of the Cross of Christ is that which holds mankind spellbound. It is not that a cross is in itself a thing of beauty. We do not make ornaments of a guillotine or electric chair. A pagan, being introduced to Christianity, was shown a crucifix and exclaimed in horror and tears, "There's a man upon it!". Yes, that's the attraction of the Cross - the man upon it.
We are drawn to him because we know that it was out of love for us that he gave his life, an act of supreme grace and of compassion.