This Mystery

For my Godmother–who’s been pestering me to blog.

Tonight’s CD–St. Vladimir’s Seminary Choir singing hymns of Pascha. I think it may be close to the angelic chorus…

Earlier in the evening I was listening to an Orthodox hymn set to a very modern melody, describing in Greek the paradox of the Crucifixion. He who hung the earth among the stars hung on a Cross. The One who cannot die, died.

Please forgive the very amateur philosophy here, but I understand one of the legacies of the Reformation and the Enlightenment to be this belief that we can figure “it” out, whatever “it” is. Since that it is not the history of my Church, there’s not this hang-up over that which we cannot know. We say, with all seriousness and earnestness, it is a Mystery.

The Orthodox Church seems comfortable in paradox. We understand, as Bishop Kallistos said, it is not the job of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but rather “to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.” Or as St. Gregory of Nyssa said: “God’s name is not known. It is wondered at.”

We see some of these paradoxes in our hymns to the Theotokos–for her obedience in the Incarnation led the One who cannot be contained to be contained in her womb, the eternally begotten was born on a specific date in time.

I tend to like the plan of attack. I like to know what’s coming up so I can prepare to be spontaneous. But, of course, that’s not what life allows.

The things I try to control, those are the very things I need to let go of. The things I try to figure out, those are things I cannot figure out. It revealed itself so profoundly last year as I drew closer to chrismation–coming from a Christian “tradition” where theologies were systematized and categorized, I was flummoxed by a theology that was OK with that which cannot be explained, only believed in faith.

So in my life in this Holy Church, I ponder some of these big paradoxes, such as this notion of the Triune God, the Most High, taking on human flesh and dwelling among us, being fully man and yet fully God. Right now, two weeks from Pascha, I wait to sing about the big one, the one those seminary guys are singing about–how He trampled death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

And as I do that, I find that somehow I am able to accept or work through some of those daily paradoxes of growth that trip me up. In the boundaries of the faith I cannot understand, only express, I find great freedom.


Author: Rebecca

Orthodox Christian. Journalist. SAR K9 handler. All three of those are deeply related.

3 thoughts on “This Mystery”

  1. I feel like I’m wearing the CD out, especially the first song “Thy Resurrection, Oh Christ our God…”

    I just keep playing it over and over and over…I’m going to try to deny myself a bit of it this week, so that come Pascha…YIPPEE!

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