Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Living with Mystery


For the early Christians, the mystery of Christ was not limited to the sacramental rituals. It touched also upon the morals and everyday life. It was “God’s plan for the fullness of time,” after all, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1: 10). Thus, in Christ all things become signposts pointing us to God. The things of the earth are not to be despised, but rather sanctified, raised up, made holy by holy use. In the Eucharistic celebration we offer God “the work of our human hands.” In our work we do the same. We do no less in our devotion.

This idea is as old as the church. In the fourth century St Gregory of Nyssa preached a splendid homily about this sacramental principle. He began by praising God for the power he gave to ordinary things; water in baptism, bread and wine in the Eucharist, oil in anointing, and the press of a bishop’s hand in ordination. He noted the common items that God had invested with miraculous power: Moses' wooden staff, Elijah’s mantle, and even the bones of dead Elisha. St Gregory then noted that such a dispensation of power had not only continued in his own day, but increased many times over. (Scott Hahn, Signs of Life; 2009)


The concept of mystery has for some time now been seen a fierce enemy, as a race, we are driven to understand, explain, and to master all things. This however is quite counterproductive when it comes to understanding the mind of the early church. Theirs was a mindset not only comfortable with mystery, but one that was particularly comfortable with the significance of the mystery that Christ had changed everyday life forever. Consequently, their goal wats to excell in the use of this mystery in their lives. We may dismiss this comfort by telling ourselves that they were merely ignorant, lacking scientific knowledge. Yet, that one sided critique is totally blind to our own ignorance regarding the mysterious which they knew well. Why do we not have the same sense dedication to this mystery? Professor Hahn carefully points out that at the heart of the mysteries lies the fact that all things are presently being drawn together, & united to Christ our God. Perhaps it is that point that we have missed in our day, perhaps we think that we are bringing all things together by our own abibiltiies.

Hahn then points out that this understanding of the mysteries of God enables us to see the way that God employs & bestows power to ordinary objects; that is a radical thought! Moreover, this power is not something that merely existed in the days gone by, but rather still exists today, even in great abundance. What a blessing it would be to shed some of our present day ignorance regarding these mysteries, and learn that “in Christ all things become signposts pointing us to God.

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