“Here I will dwell among the Israelites forever.” (Ezekiel 43:7)
Worship in the Jerusalem Temple was characterized by separation. The clean was separated from the unclean. Pagans were separated from Jews. Ordinary Israelites were separated from the priestly tribe. And even among the priests, only the high priest could enter the holy of holies—and only once a year.
The ancient Jewish tradition that called for all these separations was based in a deep respect for God’s unapproachable holiness. And there is something beautiful in that tradition. But for those of us who have embraced Christ, there is no more separation. On the cross, Jesus bridged the divide between heaven and earth. Dying for us and rising from the dead, he brought heaven down to earth— and he lifted us, mere mortals, up to heaven.
When thunder and lightning pierced the clouds over Calvary, the veil of the Temple that separated human beings from God was torn from top to bottom. The sin that separated us from God and each other was removed. We are now a new creation, reconciled with our heavenly Father!
Nowhere do we experience this unity more movingly than at Mass. The Book of Revelation describes a divine liturgy taking place in heaven (Revelation 4-5). It is a thrilling, beautiful description of jubilant singing and deep worship. But there is no separation between that divine liturgy and our own earthly liturgy! Every time we celebrate Mass, we enter into the kingdom where God is all in all. We are united with the angels and saints, with our loved ones, and with the countless unnamed heroes and heroines of ages past. And entering into this kingdom for that brief moment in time, we get a taste of what it will be like in heaven, when every division that remains on earth will be done away with.
So rejoice whenever you come to Mass! You are entering into the great company of God’s beloved people. Whether or not you feel like praying, you can let the worship of heaven lift you to a greater experience of God himself dwelling in the midst of his people.
“Almighty God, even though heaven and earth cannot contain you, you have chosen to make your dwelling place among us. May you be glorified in us now and forever.”
Psalm 85:9-14; Matthew 23:1-12