Mystery & Majesty

Started by ·, January 12, 2023, 11:02:48 AM

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O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

As Saint John Damascene clearly explained, God is ineffable and incomprehensible and no one has ever known God save he to whom He revealed Himself. (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 1, Chapter 1)

The sublimity of the Sacred Science is great and the dangers of curiosity are great.

The Mysteries of Faith should not be treated poorly, as they are truths above reason and which we are to believe even though we cannot comprehend them. (Catechism of Pius X, The Mysteries of Faith, Q 15), and we must believe them because they are revealed to us by God, who, being infinite Truth and Goodness, can neither deceive nor be deceived. (Ibid., Q 16) They are not contrary to reason; they are just above our abilities to understand in their essence because we are finite. The mysteries cannot be contrary to reason, because the same God who has given us the light of reason has also revealed the mysteries, and He cannot contradict Himself. (Ibid., Q 18)

These Mysteries are precious: they are not only knowledge of things that we could not discover on our own, but things we cannot understand even after their revelation. (ST I Q 32 A 1) Even the simple metaphors with material comparisons can cause confusion in some. (ST I Q 1 A 9) Even when all linguistic and cultural references are understood, Scripture has layers of meaning. (Ibid., A 10) These things can cause confusion and error for those who unwisely seek to understand on their own, even though we can understand them if we have assistance, but the Mysteries are truly above all understanding.

Recall the warning: As it is not good for a man to eat much honey, so he that is a searcher of majesty, shall be overwhelmed by glory. (Proverbs 25:27)

These Mysteries are easy for children to accept: if it is said to be so, then that is how a child believes, and that is how we should be when it comes to what we know to be Mysteries, as the Lord says: Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter into it. (Luke 18:17) The Proud will question and dispute and attempt to learn what is above understanding, and this will be their ruin, for Scripture contains certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16)

It is easy to accept this, if we want to. We easily accept that we are very limited in what we can know and understand about natural scientific matters. Even though something could be known, we accept that everything is too complex, too large or small in scale, or simply too resource intensive (time, energy, money, etc) to ever understand fully. And then there are things we know we could know, but we simply do not have the means to access that knowledge at this time.

How then, are the Mysteries of the Faith so difficult for so many? We already know we cannot understand them, but we can accept them. We already do this individually on all matters of the world. We do not have to understand everything to accept it and use it for a good purpose. The Mysteries are an impediment only to those who insist on having understanding:

Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.  Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life.  ... After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him. Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God. (John 6:54-64, 67-70 )

Why did the Apostles believe? They did not know about the institution of the Blessed Sacrament. It was because they believed God. And that is why we should believe that in the Eucharist Jesus Christ is truly present, because He Himself has said it, and holy Church teaches it. (Catechism of Pius X, The Blessed Eucharist, Q 3)

The theological explanations of what is contrary or consistent with a Mystery are not proofs of them we can use to come to Faith. Curious inquiries into the Sacred Science are dangerous: For it is not necessary for thee to see with thy eyes those things that are hid. In unnecessary matters be not over curious, and in many of his works thou shalt not be inquisitive. For many things are shewn to thee above the understanding of men. And the suspicion of them hath deceived many, and hath detained their minds in vanity. (Ecclesiasticus 3:23-26)

If we easily accept our limits in understanding material things, why then would any find the inability to understand the highest spiritual matters to be an impediment to acceptance?