Thursday, March 08, 2012

The "Inmost Secret" of Our Being

(Note- I'm using Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton as my Lenten devotional this year. I'll be blogging the journaling prompts most days.)

The great paradox of Christian personalism is this: it consists in something more than bringing to light the unique and irreplaceable element in the individual Christian. On the contrary, Christian personalism does not require that the inmost secret of our being become manifest or public to all. We do not even have to see it clearly ourselves! We are more truly "Christian persons" when our inmost secret remains a mystery shared by ourselves and God, and communicated to others. ~Seasons of Celebration, pp. 21-22

Consider the "inmost secret" at the core of yourself that is shared with God and remains a mystery.

Can something be known and still be a mystery? Aren't those conflicting terms? If we read a mystery novel, we find out who the killer is in the last couple chapters, and the mystery is over. Isn't that how it works?

In the modern world, yes. The fundamental assumption of modernity is that everything can be known, facts can be discerned, and that knowledge gives us power. But we've lost a deeper sense of mystery that the ancients understood. They knew that there was much that could not be known, and with a deep humility they participated in the mysteries that they knew they could never understand in a way that would give them control or resolution. They participated in them because these mysteries made them whole.

As much as we've overdone things in modernity, we still have mysteries that we get to participate in. Love is fundamentally a mystery. I can sit down and write a very long list of all of Jessica's wonderful qualities, but when I knew I wanted to marry her I did not make a list to see if the sum total of those qualities made us being together the logical conclusion.

The same thing goes for our daughters, Kate and Claire. We can tell you all the wonderful things about them (much of Jessica's blogging is devoted to that), but they don't have to achieve a certain score for me to be ecstatic about being their daddy. This isn't math. It's love. It's a mystery in which we participate, never fully understanding what it is in a cognitive sense, but knowing it on a deeper level than words ever could define.

That's the reason we have sacraments in the church. The waters of Baptism, the bread and wine of Holy Communion are physical, tactile things that point beyond themselves and participate in that divine mystery to which they point. We cognitively get to understand just enough to allow us to drop our guard and participate in these mysteries.

So what is the "inmost secret" at the core of myself? Quite simply, it's that I'm God's child, created in God's image, and called to proclaim that truth that I can barely even begin to wrap my mind around. But the good new is that I don't have to be able to wrap my mind around it! I get to participate in the mystery!

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