I tried a little experiment as I was thinking about the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews for today. I went to my computer and typed in “symbol for hope.” As I suspected, the first symbol that popped up was an anchor. The sacred writer tells us today that those of us who have taken refuge in God cling to hope, an anchor of hope for the soul, that we find in Jesus, our High Priest.
The writer uses an image from the liturgical worship of Judaism to elaborate upon the symbol of the anchor. The high priest would preside at the various sacrifices of rams and bullocks, pigeons and doves in the Temple of Jerusalem. The blood of the sacrifice would be collected in a bowl before the organs and the flesh were consigned to the flames. For these people blood was life and was, therefore, sacred because they regarded life as sacred, a gift from God. The blood of the sacrifice would be sprinkled on the people. Then the priest would enter the Holy of Holies which was separated from the people by a veil. There he would sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat, the platform that held the Ark of the Covenant. This symbolic action united God and the people.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews equates Jesus’ Ascension with the action of entering the interior of the Holy of Holies behind the veil. By this action, Jesus becomes a new high priest. Unlike the high priest of old, Jesus remains in heaven; he does not come out of the Holy of Holies. However, one day, Jesus will return, coming back from the Holy of Holies, and bringing with him our salvation. It in that salvation, won through the death of Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, that we find our anchor, our hope. It is that hope that is our encouragement to remain steadfast in our faith and in the promise that we will one day enter the Holy of Holies with Jesus, there to live for all eternity.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator