A meditation for the Advent season
Humbly I adore thee, verity unseen, Who thy glory hidest ‘neath these shadows mean; Lo, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed. Tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.
This 13th century contemplation sings of love for a truth, which, although not fully visible, is no less truly known. For Aquinas, the truth is Jesus; known and adored, yet shrouded in ineffable mystery.
Mystery. Whether I speak of God or truth (that which is unalterably, reliably real) or virtues (laudable principles, which, when practiced, make for good living) or the meaning of life, there is mystery.
Mystery. Not a riddle to be resolved by reason (if I only knew more, I’d figure it out). Rather something beyond the fullest grasp of my comprehension (the more I know, the more I know I don’t know).
Yet the nature of mystery, it seems to me, is to call continually, saying, “Come.”
There is, however, an inherent problem with mystery. It’s mysterious! Resistant to my quest for answers. For it’s one thing for me to acknowledge life’s ambiguity in the abstract; in a calm moment, saying, “Life’s only consistency is its inconsistency.” It’s another matter to face uncertainty in the concrete corridors of my life, at the intersection of circumstance and decision, crisis and action when my choices, however sincerely made, might prove disastrously wrong. For then, I long for the comfort of certainty.
In this, there is another danger of running too fast, too far in the other direction. To equate faith with certainty and, even worse, with conformity that inhibits questioning and favors answers, the clearer and firmer, the better.
This is not the mentality of Advent; the season of preparation for Christmas, which, for Christians, celebrates the greatest mystery, the grandest incomprehensibility of all: God taking flesh to dwell among us. Hence, Advent, to mystery’s constant call, beckons the response, “Yes!”
So, what does “yes” look like?
© 2022 PRA
 Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Dominican philosopher and theologian
2 thoughts on “Mystery’s Call, Part 1 of 2”
Thank you Paul,
YES for me is having enough Faith to embrace the mystery even though we don’t know where it’s going. I love certainty too, BUT if we’ve learned nothing over the last few years with insane politics and COVID – nothing is guaranteed and we have to learn how to Pivot quickly. I still laugh when I think about Zoom, a tool I never heard of until 2020 and quickly it became our best friend! And there was so much mystery to it…. what was the person wearing that we couldn’t see in the camera? What were they thinking but not saying? One of the things I did in Zoom meetings which is why I brought it up in the first place, is that I tried to see God in every person on the screen with me!! Why did I do that?? Because it helped me to control my facial expressions if I didn’t like the person! It also made me a better listener. There is nothing like face to face but there’s mystery in that too – so we just have to have faith!
Loretta, your reflections regarding your experiences with Zoom are priceless. For you articulate some of what I have thought and felt, but, until the moment of reading your testimony, hadn’t occurred to me. Thank you for this.
And, yes, mystery — that which is unknown, yet capable of being experienced, perhaps, in our ready recognition of our void in knowledge — abounds. Thus, the necessity of faith.
Another word that you have used caught my attention. Pivot. The idea and reality of making necessary shifts in thinking and feeling, intention and action was one of the key foci at a 12-step meeting I attended yesterday (and, yes, it was via Zoom!). In this, I was given to contemplate any number of moments in my life when something happened — whether welcomed or not welcomed — that called me to change course (indeed, that demanded that I reorient my living). The fact that such a major shift was necessary did not make it simple or easy. Certainly, in most cases, it was not desirable. Nevertheless, again, it was necessary. Thus, the elemental truth of your word — “YES for me is having enough Faith to embrace the mystery even though we don’t know where it’s going” — speaks to my soul. Again, I thank you.