They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary,
as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle.
For God says, "See that you make everything
according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.
Someone asked me, "Isn't Mary like a symbol of the Church?"
I replied, "If I offered you a picture of an ice cream cone and an ice cream cone, which would you take?"
Mary is not a symbol, a "copy and shadow" of our gracious God, she is the Mother of God and our mother.
The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us how Christians have always been tempted to back away from full-throated belief and invest in copies and shadows.
Our author points to the sacrifices offered in the recently demolished temple of Jerusalem. They were only copies and shadows of the real sacrifice -- the ur-sacrifice -- which was offered by Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem. We need not regret the destruction of the temple because Jesus has offered the sacrifice which has -- once and for all -- atoned for sin.
So is the Mass then like the sacrifices in the Jewish temple, only a copy and shadow of the one sacrifice?
Catholics understand our Mass as a participation in the One Sacrifice. Gathered into his Body by Baptism, we offer ourselves as he offered his body on the cross, by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. This is not a copy and shadow, a sort-of-like; it is our immediate immersion in Jesus who presents us with himself to the Father.
Although Jesus died only once for our salvation, we are swept into his salvation by being baptized into his death and by our eating and drinking at his altar.
Our liturgy -- the Mass, the Sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours -- is that more excellent ministry which he has obtained as the mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.
Our hope is not in a vague idea that perhaps God -- if there is a God -- will listen to our prayers, which are only copies and shadows of Jesus' prayer.
Our hope is the rope which binds us to the anchor who is Jesus, as he has passed through the veil of death and entered the Sanctuary.
If the sailor cannot actually see -- through the veil of the water's surface -- the anchor resting on the sea bottom, he is nonetheless sure of its being there. Our daily prayer, united with the universal prayer of the Church, is that cable which ties us to Christ.
Each day -- five days a week at the VA hospital and two days a week at home -- I spend time in the chapel with the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Often, at the VA, I administer the Sacrament of the Sick; and occasionally, the Liturgy of Penance. I always remind the Veteran that the entire Church is praying with us for his healing and forgiveness.
Occasionally, my faith takes a battering as I meet contempt and skepticism. (It doesn't happen often but my self-confidence is fragile.) Then I return to the chapel and prayer to feel the strength of that anchor cable.
I love you, LORD, my strength, LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold!