In the book of Exodus, God instructed Moses about the construction of the Tabernacle – the place where Israel worshiped God during their 40-year journey through the wilderness. You will find reference to the construction in Exodus chapters 25 through 31. Although the reading might be tedious, the detail of the construction lays vitally important groundwork for this passage in Ephesians – as well as the significance of the rending of the curtain in St. Matthew 27:50-51, and the comments in Hebrews 4:14-16 and 10:19-23.
The Tabernacle was divided into two sections and separated by a curtain (a veil). In the larger section – called the Holy Place – Moses placed three pieces of furniture: a lamp stand, a table for the Bread of the Presence, and an altar of incense. It was in this section the priests burned incense, kept the candles lit, and the bread fresh.
The smaller section behind the curtain was called the Holy of Holies. In this section Moses placed the holy Ark of the Covenant – a golden box in which were placed the Tablets of the Law Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, and later a jar of manna, and the almond branch that had flowered and budded overnight to prove the priestly authority of Aaron. On top of the Ark sculptors crafted two angels which faced each other with their wings touching. God’s glory in the form of a cloud rested over the Ark.
Once a year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) the High Priest – and only the High Priest – entered behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. On that holiest of days, the High Priest entered the sacred room with a basin of blood from a sacrificial lamb. And so the veil in the Tabernacle -- and later in Solomon's Temple and later still in Herod's Temple during the days of Christ -- the veil served as an effective reminder to Israel that the way to God was closed to the people, that only the High Priest could enter into the very throne room of God.
The point of it all is this: When Jesus died on the cross, God ripped the veil in two, from top to bottom -- revealing once and for all that the way into the Holy of Holies was now available to all God's people, not just the High Priest.
That is why the writer to the Hebrews said: Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have "a great priest over the house of God," let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust . . . (Hebrews 10:19-23) (emphasis mine).
In referring to our boldness to enter behind what once was a veil, the editors of the New American Bible wrote these comments: Practical consequences from these reflections on the priesthood and the sacrifice of Christ should make it clear that Christians may now have direct and confident access to God through the person of Jesus, who rules God's house as high priest. They should approach God with sincerity and faith, in the knowledge that through baptism their sins have been remitted, reminding themselves of the hope they expressed in Christ at that event.
Further, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial (filial: having a relationship as a son or daughter) [a filial] adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. . . . (paragraph 2609).
Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will" (paragraph 2610).
And finally, we read in paragraph 2777 of the Catechism: In the Roman liturgy, the Eucharistic assembly is invited to pray to our heavenly Father with filial boldness; the Eastern liturgies develop and use similar expressions: "dare in all confidence,". . . . Our awareness of our status as slaves would make us sink into the ground and our earthly condition would dissolve into dust, if the authority of our Father himself and the Spirit of his Son had not impelled us to this cry . . . 'Abba, Father!' . . . When would a mortal dare call God 'Father,' if man's innermost being were not animated by power from on high? (my emphasis).
And so it is no wonder St. Paul guided the Ephesians -- and us -- into that most gracious and undeserved relationship with God. Baptized and faithful followers of Jesus Christ are invited by God Himself to enter boldly to Him -- in humility, of course -- recognizing that Christ's blood alone makes us welcomed sons and daughters into the very throne room of God.
Oh, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.Questions for reflection:
1. Since all Christians have direct access to God through the blood of Jesus Christ, how then should we behave when doubts whisper, “Who do you think you are to approach God?”
2. What does this passage in 2 Corinthians, and this passage in Romans have to do with our welcome into God’s presence?