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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Tearing of the Veil


"And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom;
and the earth shook and the rocks were split.
The tombs were opened,
and many bodies of the saints who had fall asleep were raised."
(Matthew 27:50-52; NAS)


The Mystery of the rented veil is sufficiently astonishing that perhaps it matters not how many times we’ve heard about it, discussed it, reflected upon it, and prayed for its essence into our lives.  At each new moment we reflect upon this Mystery, new blessings come forth. We notice Matthew recording the event in phases: Christ’s spirit is yielded, then the veil is torn, then the earth shakes, then the sleeping rise.  Awake!


As mystics, we see this mystery in the microcosm, the renting of the veil for each of us individually.  But we also yearn for the mystery in the macrocosm, as many come to see anew, as the blindfolds of an entire society are shed.  Jesus began this story, and ever since, many have followed to carry it on.  Reformers like Martin Luther, artists like Da Vinci, authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe, activists like Gandhi, leaders like Nelson Mandela and prophets of our like Martin Luther King have each, in their own ways, slashed tears in the veil.  As the veil is torn, separation is replaced with liberation, which we'll glean in a few ways.  It is in this macrocosmic way that I pray for many veils to be tearing in our culture and our world.


In pondering this mystery, it seems fitting to highlight the gospel that most complements the metaphor of the veil, both in its message and in its life -- a gospel veiled behind the canonical Bible, apparently deemed too radical for inclusion, the Gospel of Thomas.


Religion is replaced with spirituality


“I shall give you what no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
what no hand has touched,
what has never arisen in a human heart”

(Thomas 17)


Behind the veil, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, where he could directly encounter the Presence of God.  This Holy place was so sacred only the holy priest could enter, and even he only he once a year, and with blood (Hebrews 9:7).


That the veil was torn from top to bottom suggests a confirmation of Jesus’ prayer, “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”  As Above, so Below.  It is done.


As the veil separated the people from the Holy of Holies, its renting expresses mysteries of great depth – mysteries the churches teach, but may not wish us to know.  For if we understood and entered into them, we may no longer need the churches as they are currently functioning.  We would continue to come together, but we may also leave some of our leaders unemployed.  In the microcosm, the torn veil brings the Great Mystery: “Christ in you” (Col 1:27).


Duality is replaced with unity


“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the one who comes from what is undivided.
I was granted from the things of my Father. . . .
For this reason I say, whoever is undivided will be full of light,
but whoever is divided will be full of darkness”
(Thomas 61)


We see in Exodus 40:21 a description of the veil: “And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the veil of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the LORD commanded Moses.”  Its function is described in Exodus 26:33: ”And you shall hang up the veil from the clasps, that you may bring in there within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.”


The veil, then, covers and divides.  The torn veil, therefore, reveals and unifies.  Like all significant biblical metaphors, the veil brings us all the way back to the metaphor of the First Couple.  Given that the Tree of Knowledge is knowledge of “good and evil,” I have been calling it the “Tree of Duality,” as noted in essay form and hinted at in metaphor.


When the First Couple opened their eyes to see duality, the duality formed a veil; their eyes were covered, as in a veil, such that their eyes were no longer “naked,” but “veiled” in duality.  When the veil is torn, their eyes can see fresh into the Tree of Life, into Unity.


Illusion is replaced with truth


"Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds.
When he finds, he will become troubled.
When he becomes troubled,
he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All."

(Thomas 2)


Other traditions speak of “maya,” cosmic delusion that covers the eyes of those of us on earth.  Our culture’s own proverb expresses this notion as “things are not as they seem.” 


Veils remain because we perceive our safety behind them.  A ripped veil terrifies us; for once we can see, we are disturbed.  Two other Thomas sayings hint as to why: we find a corpse.  According to twin sayings 56 and 80, “Whoever has come to understand the world has found a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world” (56).  So when the veil is torn, we are dumbstruck, shocked, grieved, and angry.  Somewhere deep within us, we know we’ll be disturbed if the veil is torn, so we “protect” ourselves by maintaining its covering.  Little do we realize how unprotected we actually are while the veil remains.  Towers fall and confusion reigns.


If we permit the veil to be torn, we are then disturbed, or as Matthew described it, our earth shakes.  We see everything with new eyes so that our whole world is disturbed. Though Thomas never admits this, the majority of those who find the corpse remain there: stunned and disturbed by it.  Some are angry, some are cynical, some drug themselves, and some are medicated by their doctors who ignorantly aim to drug them back into illusion.


But if we come to terms with the corpse, as expressed in Thomas, we are “astonished."  We have permitted our earth to shake and now our tombs are opened. Then Matthew describes the final phase: the sleeping rise.  We are awakened.  Thomas’s less politically correct text expresses this final phase as being superior or ruling.  I prefer Matthew’s expression of this final phase and see it as the awakened person who is no longer ruled by the world, but instead by Christ within.  This is the person for whom the truth has set free.


If many of us permit the veil to be torn in the microcosm, then our collective microcosms will tear the veil in the macrocosm.  Once our collective veil is torn, we will be stunned, disturbed and grieved, but then we will be set free.  Our permission for the veil to be torn from top to bottom will be more than worth its cost in our liberation.

"Recognize what is before your eyes,
and the mysteries will be revealed to you.
For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.”

(Thomas 5)

10 comments:

  1. chandra fritz says:
    March 30, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    This is an awesome post. Fits in great with Easter.

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  2. Steve Schrader says:
    March 31, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Beautiful job on this, Karina, as always! Things do not exist as they appear to exist. I’m reminded of Jesus walking on water. His disciples were not able to follow him for long, not because they didn’t have faith, or didn’t believe Jesus, but because they could not believe their own eyes. Most of us believe that things exist as they appear to exist and we attach labels to those things to solidify that belief. Jesus realized the true nature of reality, but his disciples did not, and so they sank into the sea.

    Happy Easter.
    Steve

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  3. Karina says:
    March 31, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you, both.

    Good connection, Steve, to Jesus walking on the water. “Jesus realized the true nature of reality, but his disciples did not, and so they sank into the sea.” Right on.

    He Is Risen!

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  4. kim says:
    April 1, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Oh Karina, I have just finished reading your powerful post, wow, where to begin, yes I consented to the tearing, never expecting to find impotence and death behind the veil. I remember being so overcome with grief that I kept thinking “Oh to be ignorant again”, and I have remained sleeping next to the corpse ever since.

    The Gospel of Thomas has a special place in my heart, I feel known when reading it. I continue to hope, while wrestling for His astonishment, seeing without it, is quite difficult. I continue to come back to Jobs words “though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him”.
    I have more that I would like to share, but I need to quiet myself for now.

    Thank you, Karina

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  5. Rita Kowats says:
    April 1, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Such an excellent balance of head and heart, Karina, and masterfully written. What a treat. It is good for me to revisit Thomas ‘s Gospel. The image of the torn veil will stay with me for awhile. It says to me that mysticism propels us into the world as prophets whose call is to tear the veil of injustice.

    Thank you.

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  6. Hi Karina,

    I was inspired by your entry so I wrote a poem:http://christianmystics.com/groups/christian-poetry/forum/topic/veiled-but-relentless/
    Thank you for posting a wonderful and insightful blog.

    Peace
    Fred

    ReplyDelete
  7. Karina says:
    April 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Right on, Rita!

    Awesome, Fred. I’m delighted it inspired you to write such a beautiful poem.

    I’m also glad it resonated so much with you, Kim. I resonate back with you too. Isn’t it interesting that once the veil begins to tear for us, part of us is thinking, “Oh to be ignorant again” (Kim) and part of us is thinking, “Something deeper, something more / That is what I seek if that veil can be tore” (Fred)? We’re grieved, but we’re also awed. We can never go back, only forward and deeper. Lovely poem, Fred.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ulises Renan says:
    April 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Observing this post, I find that our Lord Jesus Christ giving his spirit cries out to God with an impressive load of love for us, which is shown when it is open the veil of the temple to allow us to have access to its mysteries. However, as always, the powerful divine actions moves our world with all its forces of good and evil, making the earth tremble, rolling stones. The graves that keep their bodies and still their spirits are shocked so powerfully than they open. And those containing holy persons they could lift their bodies thanks to that powerful revitalizing energy, which gave a strong vital push, so that they came to life. Amazing as always. Karina Thanks for reminding this passage as impressive as there are they so constantly in the Bible.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Chuck Dunning says:
    April 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Hi Karina,

    Very well done! As I am sure you know, I am a big fan of the Gospel of Thomas, so I love it that you highlighted your key insights with references from Thomas.

    You’ve said so many poignant things here that I really can’t do them justice in reasonably concise comment. I certainly resonate with this:
    As the veil separated the people from the Holy of Holies, its renting expresses mysteries of great depth – mysteries the churches teach, but may not wish us to know. For if we understood and entered into them, we may no longer need the churches as they are currently functioning. We would continue to come together, but we may also leave some of our leaders unemployed.

    Yep, just this afternoon I was talking with a friend about some of the ways the Church has tried to insert itself between the faithful and Divine Grace, completely ‘veiling’ God’s unconditional love behind its doctrines.

    Also this:
    Somewhere deep within us, we know we’ll be disturbed if the veil is torn, so we “protect” ourselves by maintaining its covering. Little do we realize how unprotected we actually are while the veil remains.

    This reminded me of something I’ve read from more than one mystic, sage, or saint, which is that our greatest fear is not that we will fail to fulfill our potential, but rather of realizing what our potential actually is.

    Again, well done.

    Agape,
    Chuck

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  10. Karina says:
    April 22, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Thanks Chuck,

    I thought you’d resonate with this one. I suppose the first quote you noted is that “Emergent/Post Modern” in me getting unveiled. Thoughtful closing point about realizing our potential too.

    And Ulises, thank you for tapping into the power Matthew revealed.

    Shalom,
    Karina

    ReplyDelete

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