A mystery indeed! A phenomenon, circumstance or happening that cannot be explained. A tale of suspense that baffles and intrigues. In ancient rites, known only to the initiated. A truth divinely imparted. These are some of the definitions you will find in the dictionary.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery? For me a murder mystery and my light reading at the moment is Dorothy Sayers’ The Nine Tailors, bringing together church life and rural life in a finely crafted detective novel. Any drama or ritual must contain a healthy dose of mystery to hold our attention and keep us focused until the great revelation, when all becomes clear.
We are familiar with ‘secrets and mysteries’. Secrets can be revealed to us when we are taught the truths by those who know, but mysteries are altogether more complex. We may gain a better understanding of a mystery as we become more experienced and grow in knowledge and wisdom, but to one extent or another, there is an element of any true mystery which will remain a mystery.
As the dictionary definition suggests, there is a religious interpretation to ‘mystery’ which is integral to Faith. It is true to say that there is a great mystery surrounding the Abrahamic religions’ God’s relationship with creation throughout all history. No mere mortal can say that they can fully understand God and explain all his actions or designs.
In the Christian faith, the writings of St Paul reveal something of this mystery to us, and enlighten us as to God’s plan laid before the foundation of the world. Throughout history, and before time began, God knew what was to happen and God was at work finely crafting all that was required.
In the Hebrew Bible we hear of God’s relationship with humanity, starting with Adam, and then with his chosen people, from Abraham and continuing through his descendants. In these sacred writings, there is more than mere historical record, because there is also an element of revelation of the mystery, of God’s continuing relationship with his people. The mystery changes and evolves over time, but it is clear that the mystery had not yet been fully revealed, as God continued at labour.
The mystery revealed to Paul, is that Gentiles can now be fellow heirs, members of the same body as the descendants of Abraham in the flesh. Those who are not borne of a Jewish mother, are able to share in the promises made by God to Abraham and his descendants. Thus, the Gentiles are adopted and become part of God’s ongoing mysterious plan. God still at crafting his people.
Christians however share in so much more, and are part of so much more, because of what Jesus did, and through what Jesus did. That which Christians commemorate during Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum, which lead to the greatest mystery of the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead commemorated especially on Easter Day but celebrated every day.
Christians celebrate with the greatest joy the fact of the resurrection, and yet what happened cannot be fully understood, the resurrection cannot be reason or explained – there remains a mystery. In the Gospels we hear of how those who knew Jesus intimately failed to recognise him until he chose to reveal himself to them, how he moved like a spirit and yet possessed a fully physical body, let alone the fact that they saw him die on the Cross and buried him! A mystery indeed… The revelation is that Jesus is risen and he is indeed the Messiah who fulfils the promises of God in the Hebrew Bible, yet he is veiled in mystery, the revelation is still not complete, God’s is still labouring hard.
God’s plan of mystery continues, and the whole of creation remains part of it today. None of us have all the answers, everything has not been revealed to us, but followers of Jesus believe that they know and understand more of God’s purposes. The Paschal Mystery is what defines Christians – belief that Jesus died on the Cross, that he rose from the dead, and finally that he ascended into heaven. That which cannot be explained or reasoned, but that which is believed and celebrated.
You may remember those words of St Paul in the great fifteenth chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians “Lo! I tell you a mystery”. The traditional reading at funerals in which Paul reasons and explains what God in Jesus achieved, how through his death and resurrection his followers are united with God and share in the promise of life eternal, which remains yet a mystery.
That great mystery will not be revealed in glorious light, the questions will not be fully answered, until … well that’s a bit of a mystery as well! The blessing of that great revelation may be conferred at the end of this mortal life, or perhaps at the end of this age, when Jesus is believed will come again.
A mystery indeed! A mystery in which Christians rejoice and glorify at the great love of God revealed in his Son, the Risen Lord and Saviour. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia…
This great hymn of Charles Wesley, composed to celebrate his conversion, reflects on Jesus’ Passion and God’s plan with a series of questions, and expresses the imponderable mystery of it all to a humble believer. That mystery however is no barrier to Wesley’s joyful proclamation that Jesus died for him, and for everyone who follows him, as God continues to work in them and through them.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
I offer this prayer:
O God, Father of glory, give unto us we pray thee, the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Enlighten the eyes of our understanding, that we may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of he glory of his inheritance, and what the exceeding greatness of his power towards us; according to the working of thy mighty power who raised him from the dead to set him at thine own right hand in heavenly places; to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
I pray that the mystery of the Resurrection will draw you deeply into God’s love for the whole human family and encourage you to grow in knowledge and wisdom, and I wish you and your loved ones a joyful Easter.
Dymunaf gorfoledd y Pasg i chi a’ch annwyliaiad wrth gyd-gerdded gyda’r Arglwydd Atgyfodedig.