Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It is All a Mystery

This is the week of understanding. Although what a foolish word! We do not understand a mystery. No. This is a week of entering without understanding, of putting your head into your heart, so to speak.

At the same time, what we enter into is so extraordinary that we must understand who we are: we are the people who have been salvaged by God. Christ has lifted us to his Father, who had asked him to make us one, to cherish us, to look after us.

This is the week of his joy: “I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) This is the week of his sorrow. This is the week of his death. We can only prostrate ourselves before a cross and pray a prayer of thanks, the kind of thanks that is torn out of us because it is buried so deep that we do not often bring it forth. This is the hour of thanks.

This is the week of examining our conscience. For it is useless to prostrate, to kneel, or to pray, unless I, too, become a servant of the people that Christ became servant of. When Jesus finished washing the feet of all the apostles, he reminded them that “the Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve”.

We need to set apart a place in our hearts where we are attentive to God, no matter where we are or what we are doing—washing dishes or anything at all. It makes no difference what you happen to be doing, because in your heart you are with your Beloved. Now we enter deeply into that place.

But this is also a week in which I have to serve my brother in whatever capacity I might be needed, because prayer without action is dead. You have to integrate your prayer into your life, preach the Gospel with your actions. Otherwise people will not know that this week is different from any other week that ever was or will be.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Season of Mercy

Reflection – Again, Catherine’s words are so profound and beautiful that my commentary is of little importance. This whole business of understanding, though – that is really important. What do we understand, anyhow? We have the formulae of our faith, and these have their place: Jesus died to save us from our sins; Jesus rose from the dead and opened the gates of heaven for us; dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.

We say them, we believe them, but what understanding can we really claim to have of them? It is a land of deep mystery we enter in this Holy Week, but it is truly the mystery we all entered when we were baptized into this death and resurrection.

The word ‘mystery’ can raise hackles of some people of rationalist and atheist persuasion. It can sound like a cop-out, like Christians just say all these weird things and then get out of having to explain them by saying ‘well, it’s all a mystery anyway.’ And that may indeed happen from time to time. We are as prone to intellectual laziness as anyone.

But a mystery is not that, not a sort of ‘get out of thinking for free card’ we play whenever we don’t care to explain ourselves. A mystery instead is a truth we can only enter into by living it. Learned tomes can be written on the theology, psychology, sociology, and economics of marriage, but it is only when man and woman come together in this intimacy of life, bear children out of that intimacy, and take on the concrete task of loving one another and these children that the truth of marriage is really apprehended. It is a mystery.

And so it is with the life of Christ, his passion and death. That is what Catherine means by putting our heads into our hearts. It is not a question of some big emotional trip. What good would that be? It is a question of laying down our lives with Jesus, in Jesus, for one another.
We can talk theology, and this has value. We can celebrate the liturgical cycle, and this has great value. But sooner or later we have to enter the mystery ourselves, in our own personal being. We have to die with Christ and so rise with him in our own lives before we can really ‘understand’ anything about the matter. But this is the grace and the life He wants to give each one of us, and so our trust and surrender to Him is the key to entering this reality each day.

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