On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations.(Isaiah 25:6-7)
As I watched Jackie Kennedy lead the funeral procession of her slain husband in 1963, I asked my mother why this beautiful young widow was wearing a veil over her face. My mother told me it was to hide the grim effects of grief from the cameras.
At Mass, still very young, I noticed that some people would return to their pews after receiving Holy Communion, and would immediately cover their faces with their hands. My mother explained, “They are speaking privately to God, and they don’t want you staring at them while they do it.”
Further thinking about it, it seemed to me that people covered their faces whenever they were encountering something that was too big, too mysterious — simply too overwhelming — for their comprehension. Children cover their faces with their sheets when their imagination runs away from them at night. Baseball fans cover their faces, oh, almost every ninth inning. Face-covering is a response to a head-on encounter with a reality that goes beyond what we can fully take in.
The Reality of Christ — of a God ready to incarnate and die for us — is a lot to take in.
As are, often, the people around us. Most of us are covering our faces all the time, not with a veil, but with another face, one that is not real.
But the veil is soon to be destroyed. The deliberate weave of the “cloud of unknowing” is about to be rent. And we will see, and be seen, and we’ll finally understand what love has been put forth for our sakes, at no cost to us beyond our willingness to be opened — uncovered before God or man, and facing reality, too.
We are told that within the veil that separates Heaven from Earth, there are “thin places.” One of the thinnest places in the world is a Catholic Mass, at the moment of Consecration, when the web is dissolved and Christ becomes present, and even the babbling babies seem to recognize it and go silent.
The Gospel reading for today foreshadows that Eucharistic action of God penetrating the veil, breaking in to a world hungry for reality.
They all ate and were satisfied. (Matt 15:37)
This is reality. There is a feast, and it is an Eternal one, and the Lord of Hosts is the host, and we are nurtured by his whole and healing food. But first, he will lie in a manger — a food bin — the Real Food for the world. Don’t cover your face, don’t put a veil before this Reality. Take it in.
Lord Jesus, my inclination is to hide my true face from the world — to shield myself from all that frightens or confuses me, or fills me with unease. As I seek you out in these desert days of Advent, help me to rend my own veil, bit by bit, so that I might better see your light, in your Church and in others. In this way, may I dare to love your creation with just a little more trust, a little more freedom, everyday, so that I may better bear the radiance of your coming, and may all the better adore you. Amen.
Aleteia will bring you reflections — Advent Light — for each day of this 2017 liturgical season. Follow the series here.