I have spoken in depth about the meaning of the veil, and about the connection between the symbolism of veiling and the mystery of virginity. I have gestured to how, in all true intimacy, there is a coincidence both of a sheltered veiling (solitude) and also of a vulnerable unveiling (nakedness). Intimacy does not, and cannot, mean a mere spilling out of everything before the eyes of other persons, a flattening out of the sacred realm of my interiority (whether spiritual or bodily) before persons who cannot adequately receive it. This would be, essentially, a loss of authentic solitude—of contact with the sacred inner realm of my being—and a falling away into a realm where everything is “flat” on the surface of reality. Rather, true intimacy comes about, not when my solitude is spilled out, but rather when I welcome someone into my solitude with me, and, in turn, make my solitude a gift to be held within their solitude. It is when I pull back the veil, not to expose myself, but rather to allow someone into the very sacred space in which nakedness and intimacy are united, in which vulnerability and security are one in the single embrace of cherishing love. Indeed, authentic intimacy is the blossoming of the mutual belonging that occurs when the interiority of two persons—the innermost sacred “veiled” space of their inner hearts—communicate with one another in the unveiling of shared vulnerability and reciprocal acceptance, all permeated by a deep reverence and cherishing tenderness for the sacredness of each person.
If, however, the sharing of myself occurs without being truly received in a corresponding reverence by the other person, then I experience an irreverencing of my self, in which the sacred space of my interior mystery is missed by the other person. And this is profoundly painful. The temptation, after this, is to “pull the veil” again over my heart, to hide myself from others, and to cease trying to unveil and share myself again. But this is not the right path to follow; for, in fact, every authentic veiling is, and must always be, but a yet deeper unveiling. In other words, every “veiling” is really not a veiling at all—not a hiding or pulling back or concealing—but an entrance into the sacred space where true unveiling and vulnerability may flower in the shelter of God’s enfolding love and in the true love of human hearts. For the sacred mystery of the person can be truly and deeply reverenced only in the realm of the heart—within the embrace of sheltering love and never outside of it—in a realm bathed in sacredness and in a humble awe before the mystery of the person, who always surpasses comprehension while also drawing the heart ever deeper in receptive contemplation and loving surrender.
Yes, and it is indeed true that this sacredness, this tender “veiling” of the mystery of myself or of the mystery of someone entrusted into my care, is not an obscuring, not a hiding, but rather an even deeper revealing. It is somewhat like the way that the darkness of the night sky allows the stars to be seen, or the way that stillness and silence allow one’s ears to attune to sounds that otherwise are inaudible. What do I mean by this? Essentially, I mean that truly deep and sacred things cannot be seen unless they are seen with the right dispositions. If they are laid bare before uncomprehending eyes, if one tries to “force” seeing, either for oneself or for another person, ultimately less is seen and not more. This is how true seeing, true beholding in reverent love, is a process that grows and deepens throughout life. This, indeed, is the essence of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Faith is, as it were, the “unveiling” of the curtain of blindness that covers over the fallen human heart due to sin; and this unveiling is simultaneously an entrance into the sacredness of mystery “beyond the veil.” It is a looking-beyond the superficial and peripheral way of seeing that, while claiming to be the immediately obvious truth of all things, actually blinds us to the deeper realities of existence and of God’s presence at the heart of the world as well as surpassing it. Faith, simply put, is learning to see-beyond-seeing, to see with the eyes of the heart what cannot be seen merely with the bodily eyes; and yet in this, it is always simultaneously—and must always be—a seeing-in-seeing, a seeing-deeper the very sacredness that lives within every thing that is encountered in creation as God’s gift, and God himself alive in his creation. Thus faith “evangelizes” the bodily eyes themselves—wellsprings of the contemplative gaze of the heart—to see spiritual realities incarnate within the material, to see the intersection point of nature and grace, of body and spirit, of human intimacy and divine intimacy. Yes, faith allows us to see the Trinity alive in all things, surpassing them while also penetrating and permeating them with the fullness of his presence, and communicating himself to us at each and every moment without ceasing.
And yet this seeing operates, not by tearing back every veil in order to grasp and comprehend and control the mystery on the level of our fallen possessiveness, but rather precisely by entering oneself into the realm of the sacred, by letting oneself be grasped by the Mystery of God. Faith thus operates by trust and not by mere comprehension, even as, from the heart of this trust, it gives birth to ever deeper understanding in the intimacy of a living contact with Mystery, in the intimacy of loving proximity to the Trinity. Thus an element of faith is the willingness to pass through non-seeing into deeper seeing, even as this passage is ceaselessly sustained by the deeper seeing that remains constant, by which we “know even as we are known” by the very power of the life of God within us. Thus faith is both seeing and trust, both passage through the darkness of the veil of this life and a vision of the radiant light that shines already in every moment of time. For it is basing one’s entire life on the Love of the One who invites, on the One whose Beauty, shining through the fabric of the veil, ravishes and captures the heart, attracting it out of itself in order, surrendering in radical trust and ardent desire, to pass beyond the veil—while unveiling one’s own heart to the touch of Love—and thus to be united in mystery to the God who is infinitely transcendent and ineffably near.
And thus we come to hope. If faith is the trust that opens the way to deeper seeing and the seeing that gives birth to trust, if it is the acceptance of the ravishing Love that reaches out beyond the veil—the veil both of God’s mystery as well as of the mystery of my own heart—in order that Lover and beloved may touch in tenderness, and may be drawn closer together; if this is true of faith, then hope is essentially the desire that is born from the trust of faith. Faith is trust and hope is dilation; faith is the bridge and hope is the walking; faith is the willingness to let my heart be wounded by Love, and hope is the willingness to let my heart reach out to be wounded by Love ever anew until the consummation that awaits in eternity.
Yes, faith is the first pulling back of the veil of my own heart to welcome the One who approaches me; this is why the primal attitude of the human person before the gift of God incarnate in Jesus Christ is faith. It is the willingness to receive the gift of Redemption, the gift of Love that comes to me in the Incarnate, Crucified, and Risen One who lives in his Church and seeks to espouse me to himself, to incorporate me into his own life of love and intimacy, both in the inner bosom of the Trinity and in the richness of human relationships within this world. It is the first vision of ineffable Beauty that prepares my heart for the final, definitive vision that awaits in the consummation of eternity. And the flowering of faith is hope, the ardent longing of the love-wounded heart to grow ever deeper into intimacy with the divine Beloved, to be assimilated into his Mystery ever more deeply; it is, therefore, the further pulling back of the veil to let God penetrate and permeate my whole being until it is all ravished and possessed by him; and, simultaneously, it is that movement of fascination, of attraction, of love-wounded yearning, to pass through the veil of God’s Mystery (while wholly reverencing this Mystery) in order to commune with God as he is in the intimacy of his own life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
At last we come to love. If faith is trust and hope is desire, if faith is seeing and hope is expansion into deeper seeing, then love is total gift and complete surrender, it is the foretaste of the definitive seeing that is born of perfect union. It is the full flowering and the mature fruit of the life of faith and hope; it is the sweet consummation of the theological virtues, which are indeed nothing but the very life of the Trinity himself present and active within me, grafting me into God’s own way of being and living, so that I may live in him and he in me, with the very life of love that is the eternal circulation of the dance of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Opened by trust and dilated by desire, my heart is unsealed in total surrender into the embrace of the One who loves me, the One who has so tenderly touched me—and my whole being pours out as a total and unreserved gift into his welcoming arms.
This is love. It is the fullness of my gift set free in response to the fullness of the gift of the One who has given himself to me first. And it is thus love, buoyed up by faith and hope and yet bringing them to full flower, that is the consummation of the Christian life, and the full restoration of what it means to be human. For only this total gift of self—which is simultaneously the totality of acceptance of the gift of the Other—allows complete intimacy to be sealed in the depth and indissolubility that God desires, and which, by his grace, I too desire. In other words, love is the very living reality of God’s own life as Trinity; it is the uncreated circulation of mutual self-giving between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this eternal circulation pours forth into me through faith and hope, and grips me so sweetly and so totally, that my entire life, every beat of my heart, every breath, every movement of mind, will, affectivity, and body, becomes a pure participation in the surging current of love passing between the divine Persons, in the throbbing heartbeat of the Trinity, which lives within me already now in this life, and in which I will be immersed forever in perfect intimacy in the consummation of eternity.