LOSE INSPECTION of the Greek New Testament reveals several passages that, on account of their peculiar structure, may have been early Christian hymns. One such passage is found in the first letter to Timothy:
Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion,
Who was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated in the spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed to the Gentiles,
believed in throughout the world,
taken up in glory.
(1 Timothy 3:16)
What most strikes me about this passage is the title it gives to our Lord. We all know the usual titles: Son of God, Son of Man, Prince of Peace, etc. But when did you last refer to our Lord as “the mystery of devotion”?
Catholicism is very comfortable with the idea of mystery. Critics of faith would make the accusation that “mystery” is a throwaway term used whenever hard evidence is lacking. This is what makes Agatha Christie’s novels so riveting; the mystery remains until the critical piece of evidence is unveiled, at which point the mystery is solved. But this would be a gross misunderstanding of what Catholics mean by mystery.
Mystery, for us, is not a dimly lit attic—so dark that its contents can’t be seen. Mystery, understood aright, is more like looking at the sun—so bright that we can’t take it all in at once.
God, Who is infinite, cannot be totally grasped by our finite minds. Jesus is all Truth, so He is mysterious in this sense. After the consecration (a rather ineffable moment), the priest proclaims “the mystery of faith.” We speak of the Paschal Mystery, too, because there is more to the Passion, Death, & Resurrection of Christ than we can fully appreciate.
We should be comfortable with mystery. The mysteries of our faith cannot be explained not for lack of content, but rather on account of superabundant content.