'Who's there?' said Harry, jumping down onto the bench below. There was no answering voice, but the veil continued to flutter and sway."
If you've ever lost someone, you know that veil is not a fluttering thing. It is permanent. It seems, like it does to Harry, as if they're going to reappear at any moment on the other side of the room. Just momentarily disappeared. But that grey curtain is more permanent, and impenetrable, than any other force on earth.
I had lots of imaginary friends when I was little. Imagination is one of the keys to a spiritual life but it doesn't end there. Jesus isn't an imaginary friend; heaven isn't the land of Oz. We know these spiritual realities are just that - real - because we go through our days and hear the murmurs, just beyond the veil. We can't get there. No matter how hard we want to. It's harder than cement. Farther away than the furthest galaxy. Sometimes, people are just... gone. Someday we will be, too. And that's the great agony of our life.
It happens to me most often in sacraments, as the song Something Beautiful by Newboys suggests: It's the child on her wedding day, it's the daddy who gives her away. When you touch the skin of a newborn baby, when you hear its cry and know it's arrived safely. When you're alone in a hospital waiting room, when you're waiting for news. Sometimes it's more common place then that, though. When your cranky teenager took out the trash after your heated argument. When someone scraped the ice off your car without asking. When the sternly worded e-mail failed to send. It's not just kindness, it's not just surprise. It's mercy, grace, and a resurrection you can touch.
The veil is lifted, and you see beyond the cloud of your emotions, that heavy weighted jacket of sin. The veil parts for a moment and we see beyond the human condition - death.
Isaiah 25 reminds us that death is the veil that shrouds God's children from understanding His ways:
- On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations. (NIV)
- There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. (NLT)
- And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. (ESV)
- And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. (NASB)
When interviewed, J.K. Rowling confessed that the veil in the Department of Mysteries is the veil that separates life and death. When Harry steps close to the veil, he can hear people on the other side of death trying to communicate.
This is the hidden kingdom. The magic waiting. It's why my heart starts to thump when I read books like The Secret Garden, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Little Princess - any story where someone has secret worth or an untold role in a world that is not our own. We know there's more. It's more than imagination, delusion or fantasy. The rhythm which seeks adventure is riddled into our blood.
When Jesus died, the veil in the sanctuary was torn. The veil from Isaiah 25 was rent. The veil is his very body (Hebrews 16:20). We are able to see the kingdom of God in a way unprecedented because in his crucifixion, as stated on the grave of Harry's parents, 1 Corinthians is quoted: "The last enemy to be conquered is death." (15:26)
Immortality is achieved through Christ. When we step forward to communion, we enter the kingdom of heaven. Unseen angels and saints are all around us - everyone living, everyone who has ever died - all there with us in an unseen reality. The veil destroyed as we receive Him - Jesus beyond time, Jesus ever-present, Jesus the love of ages.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Cor 13:12
The veil destroyed, all will be reunited as they are when Harry drops the Resurrection stone at his own death. We will see everything as it is, and everyone as they are, and we will see our teacher face to face.
Our true life is hidden in God. As long as we fear death, a veil is over our eyes preventing us to see things as they really are. When we surrender our lives to His will, we pass through a curtain like a sheer waterfall onto the other side of grace. Able to see the kingdom. Able to see this live in a new light. This is beyond imagination, life behind the veil; it is beyond your wildest dreams.
And it is very, very real.