WHAT IS “MYSTERY”?
“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God, in mystery, and (which was) hidden, and which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor 2: 6-8)
The “wisdom of God,” spoken by the Apostles and their successors “in mystery,” was indeed once “hidden” from all, “before the ages.” But it is not un-knowable, nor does it remain “hidden,” in the era of the Church, having been revealed (and continuing to be revealed) in the Person of Jesus Christ, to anyone willing to open up to that revelation.
So, when we talk about “mystery” in our Tradition, we do not mean, contrary to a popular misconception, something un-knowable to us. What we do mean, by “mystery,” is something that requires our openness to receiving its meaning; to receiving the revelation of Truth and Light that is “hidden” in Jesus Christ, to those not willing to “see” Him for Who He is. “Mystery,” in our Tradition, also requires “mystagogy” (“μυσταγωγία” in Greek, or “introduction/initiation into the mystery”), which means that we need others to “introduce” us to, or “lead” us “into,” the knowledge of God’s wisdom, revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why, traditionally, the explanations of the “mystery” of the Eucharist, (e.g., the one written by St. Maximus the Confessor in the 7th c.), are called “mystagogical.” And the Divine Liturgy itself, in all its parts leading up to the central Eucharistic Prayer or “Anaphora,” and also in the further parts leading up to Holy Communion, is “mystagogical,” because all the texts and actions therein help to “lead us into,” and reveal to us, the “mystery” of communion with God. Even the iconostasis (or “icon screen”), which “hides” from us certain moments of our church-services, is not there indefinitely to conceal from us the revelation of the “mystery,” no. It is there, rather, to conceal it for a certain time, which we need properly to prepare for its revelation, which emerges from the altar/sanctuary after our due preparation, at the “proper” time.
So let me be enticed by that which is concealed, “in mystery,” that I strive to open up to it, and want to be “led into” it, by the grace-filled “mystagogy” of Holy Tradition. Lord, I want to know more, not of the “wisdom” of “the rulers of this age,” who keep changing each election-cycle, but of Your unchanging wisdom. Help me be teachable today, and open to learning Your mysteries.