Blog # 267 Jn 6 - Mystery
John 1:18 makes this acclamation: No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, ever at the Father's side, who has revealed Him. John 6: 46 gives this testimony by Jesus: Not that anyone has seen the Father - only the one who is from God has seen the Father.
St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians the Church has produced, said: "Man's utmost knowledge of God is to know we do not know Him". In the early ages of the Church's history and on into the middle ages this same teaching was consistently proclaimed and defended. I am not altogether sure today whether there is a clear personal universal practical awareness of its meaning and its presence in our minds as we profess and proclaim each Sunday at Mass our faith in God. "I believe in God..."
Another way to say what St. Thonmas Aquinas said is to say God is a mystery. The key word in a definition of mystery includes the word unknown taken in the sense of not being understood or comprehended and can be applied to any reality in a strict or in a broad sense. In the most strict application of the term mystery, we refer to a reality that is known or comprehended by none other than itself ,ever. Applied in a less strict sense a reality would be a mystery, or incomprehensible, to certain people and not to others, or at one particular time and not at another. An example of this would be my own experience with an I-phone . Right now what goes on inside an I-phone is incomprehensible to me. It is a mystery to me how when I am riding along I- 95 here in Georgia at 65 miles an hour and somebody calls the driver from Massachusetts. His I-phone rings and the conversation continues for seven minutes without an interruption as , with no wires attached, we get further and further away from Massachusetts at 65 miles an hour! If I were 20 years old and smart enough I could go to school and find out some of what goes on in the I-phone. It is not a mystery in the strictest sense of the term though it is a genuine mystery for me now. Another type of mystery would be a reality that could not be known unless it were revealed, but once revealed could be comprehended or understood. An example of this type of mystery is the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or the infallibility of the Pope.
In our Catholic theology we apply the term mystery to God in its most strict sense. We believe God is totally incomprehensible in Himself to anyone other than to Himself even to Jesus in His experience as one of us ! Though this might seem shocking to some of us at first, it applies to all of us and applied to the historical Jesus while He was among us as one of us and like to us in all but sin. As the Word of God Incarnate, and genuinly as one of us, Jesus had to believe in God as we do, had to obey God as we do, had to pray in response to God as we do, had to know God as we do through the work of God in creation, the same sun and moon that we see, had to be capable of suffering and death as we are so capable. All of this and the Incarnation itself constitute an absolute mystery for us as it did for the human Jesus.
And all of this is true not because God desired to reveal something of Himself and keep the rest for Himself but simply and absolutely it is true because there is but one God the Creator of all that exists. And this means there is a real infinite and therefore an unimaginable incomprehensible unmeasurable 'distance' or difference between ourselves and God. There is not even a line between ourselves as creatures and God as our Creator that we can comprehend as a line of demarcation between us. The infinite'distance' between us is absolutely incomprehensible for us. God is a mystery in the strictest sense of the term.
All of creation is a gift and an expression of God's love. What can be seen, felt, heard, etc. can be understood, appreciated more or less fully, and made use of for our comfort and joy. It is all wonderful. It is an expression of a wonderful love. But God the Creator must still remain a mystery if God is to remain.
Other examples of mysteries in the strict sense are the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the resurrection of the body, and the virgin birth of Jesus.