The Tearing of the Temple Curtain

Q: A Fundamentalist Baptist friend wants to know how the Catholic Church views the curtain being torn in half as Christ expires. He says he (and his church) views this occurence as proof that it is no longer necessary for God’s people to be under an institutional Church or clergy.

A: Christ’s sacrifice and the tearing of the curtain symbolizes several things, but none of them imply that there will no longer be a clergy or an established Church (as evidenced by the fact Jesus proceeded after the Resurrection to appoint clergy and establish a Church). Among the things it symbolizes are:

  1. The Jewish economy (the Law of Moses/the Old Covenant) has been done away with.
  2. That our high priest (Jesus) has the right to enter the heavenly tabernacle.
  3. That we approach God through Jesus and the Christian economy rather than through the Jewish, Mosaic economy.
  4. That heaven has now been opened to receive the saints, who were previously kept at Abraham’s bosom.

In none of these things–the destruction of the Mosaic Law/Old Covenant/Mosaic way of approaching God–does it imply the demise of all rituals (or else we would not have baptism and the Eucharist) or that there will be no priests in the Law of Christ/New Covenant/Christian way of approaching God (see the papers on the Christian priesthood over in the Nazareth File Library). It simply signifies the passing away of the Jewish economy without implying anything in particular about the content of the Christian economy.

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