Have you ever wondered where Christ fits in the story of salvation? The letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament beautifully shows us how Christ is the fulfillment of the old covenant and the pinnacle of this story. In this episode, Dr. Andrew Swafford gives us an insight into his new study on the letter to the Hebrews, which unveils the heavenly grandeur of the new covenant. In Christ, we can now experience heaven on earth!
Snippet from the Show
“What you get out of Hebrews is that the new covenant is not a text, it’s a living liturgical reality.”
In order to fully appreciate the New Testament, we need to understand the Old Testament and the story of salvation. The letter to the Hebrews reveals to us how Christ is the pinnacle of this story because of his perfect sacrifice and self-offering to the Father. Hebrews truly unveils the richness of the liturgy in light of the Old Testament background and how we can now enter the heavenly holy of holies through the Eucharistic flesh of Jesus.
Liturgical Worship in the Old Covenant
After Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt in Exodus 14, God draws them to Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19 where God gives Moses the 10 commandments on the top of Mt. Sinai in his very presence, and enters into a covenant with the Israelites. In Exodus 24, there’s a communion meal on top of Mt. Sinai which foreshadows the Eucharistic meal. In Exodus 25, God gives Moses instructions for building the Tabernacle, an earthly sanctuary that was patterned after the heavenly Temple shown to Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai. In the old covenant, liturgical worship meant to imitate the liturgy of heaven. God dwelled in the holy of holies of the Tabernacle, which was separated by a veil or a curtain from the rest of the sanctuary. After the golden calf episode, God withdraws his presence from his people because of their sin and unfaithfulness. From that moment on, only the high priest was allowed into the holy of holies once a year on the Day of Atonement.
The Veil of the Temple is Torn: The New Covenant
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.” – Matthew 27:51
Jesus’s death and resurrection brings about a new covenant. On the cross, Jesus offered the most perfect sacrifice for our sins, he offered himself and presented this sacrifice to the Father in the heavenly throne. At the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross, the veil is torn, which is a reference to the veil which separated the holy of holies from the rest of the sanctuary in the Tabernacle of ancient Israel. This is significant because it means that now we have access to the heavenly holy of holies through the Eucharistic flesh of Jesus. Now we can draw near to the living God because of Jesus’ sacrifice. When we participate in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we no longer just imitate the worship of heaven, we enter into the very worship of heaven. Jesus reconciled heaven and earth and through the Eucharist, God unleashes his life and presence in a new way here on earth. We can now enter into this new glorified heavenly reality with Christ here on earth, where he heals and transforms us.
If you would like to learn more about the letter to the Hebrews, make sure to look into Ascension’s new study, Hebrews: The New and Eternal Covenant.
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- Hebrews: The New and Eternal Covenant Study Program
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Dr. Edward Sri is a theologian, well-known Catholic speaker, and author of several best-selling books. His work with Ascension includes study programs such as A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion and Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother. Several of Dr. Sri’s programs were filmed on-site in the Holy Land, and feature immersive video explorations of the sacred sites where Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles lived and died.
Dr. Sri is the host of the acclaimed Ascension podcast All Things Catholic with Dr. Edward Sri. Together with Curtis Martin, Dr. Sri is a founding leader of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), of which he serves as senior vice president of Apostolic Outreach.
Dr. Sri lives with his wife Beth and their children in Colorado.