Mystery

While I was growing up, my parents watched a lot of detective shows -- Perry Mason, Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, Simon & Simon, Quincy M.E., Magnum, P.I., you get the idea. Some of the shows I enjoyed, but I don't think I ever actually solved a case. (Mom, however, got them almost every time; probably still does.) The detective story was invented by Edgar Allan Poe, and in the 200 years since, it has exploded both on screen and in print. From The Maltese Falcon to Murder on the Orient Express, from Monk to CSI, everyone seems to love a good mystery.

But we don't -- at least where real life is concerned. We try to root out mystery wherever we can and replace it with perfectly comprehensible fact. Our society's scientism teaches us all things are knowable; no mystery, no unsolved puzzle can stand before the relentless march of scientific progress. Even if we (rightly) believe science, good though it is, can't give us all the answers, we're rarely comfortable leaving things at "I don't know." That's why theologians work so hard to explain every last detail of our faith. We don't like mysteries.

The problem, of course, is that an infinite God is by necessity mysterious. How does the Holy Trinity work? It's a mystery. How could the death of a single man satisfy the wrath of God? It's a mystery. How can Christ truly be with us in bread and wine, and how can the Holy Spirit wash our souls through physical water? Mysteries both. We live in a world of holy mystery. Yet instead of contemplating the divine, instead of marveling at the secret workings of the hand of God, we demand concrete answers we can easily understand, shallow though they be. We want a God who is far more immanent than transcendent, a Creator who acts and thinks like His creation.

I, for one, am glad He is far more and far better than I ever will be. Let us all learn to live in mystery, our souls knowing more than our minds ever could.

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