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Back to Newspaper articles archive: 2001

Holidays a good time to 'thin' veil

By Jerry Johnston
Deseret News columnist

In the past, when Americans said "happy holidays," everyone knew which holidays they meant.
But times have changed.
As the country grows and grows more aware a whole Christmas list of winter holy days have been added. There's the Muslim "Ramadan" and Baha'i "Day of Covenant" in November, "Hanukkah" for Jews and "Kwanzaa" for African-Americans in December, not to mention the Hindu, Shinto and Sikh holy days coming up in January.
And this year, more than any time in decades, those holidays promise to be filled with reflection, resolve and worship.
Tragedy turns the mind that way.
In biblical terms, there has always been a "veil" between heaven and earth.
In LDS terms, that veil will be thinner this winter than ever before.
And that's an opportunity spiritually minded souls can't afford to miss.
Yet if a veil hangs between heaven and earth, there are also veils between people of different cultures and religions. They are veils held in place by apprehension. We keep them there out of fear of rejection, or confusion, or corruption.
Mostly, we keep them in place because we fear the unknown.
And this holiday season is a good time to "thin" the veils between us.
True, it's an odd moment in history to feel encouraged. The world seems so befuddled and filled with despair. The attacks on America seem so pointless and absurd.
And they will always seem that way.
Yet the deaths caused by those attacks don't need to be pointless. They can have meaning.
But it's up to us to give them meaning.
None of us will likely have the chance to prevent jetliners from crashing into skyscrapers, but if the Trade Tower disaster makes us think twice before getting aggressive with a friend or family member, it will bring meaning to what is now a meaningless calamity.
None of us will likely get anthrax in the mail, but if the anthrax horror keeps us from poisoning our relationships with harsh words, it will help bring meaning to what now seems to be pointless suffering.
Each Christmas Christians say "Jesus is the reason for the season." But this year we can add another meaning. Another reason for season is to "thin the veils" that divide us.
The Apostle Paul saw those veils as opaque glass.
"For now we see as through a glass darkly; but then face to face," he wrote. "Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
In King James English, the word "glass" didn't mean "windowpane," it meant "looking glass" a mirror.
In other words, when we sweep away the soot, we see ourselves reflected in the face of God and the face of others. We finally understand who we are.
Pogo almost got it right.
"We have met the enemy and he is us," he said. He meant "We are our own worst enemy."
But the so-called "enemy" out there is "us" in another way as well. He is us with all our longing, fear and faith. And once we come to see how similar we are, we will also see ourselves, who we are, what we're made of and what we are capable of becoming.
And that would make for happy holidays indeed.

©Copyright 2001, Deseret News

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