Reflection & Dialogue: Listening to and living the mystery of Christ and the Church

Today’s readings invite us to reflect on the dignity that is ours in living in the age of the fulfilment of the promises and the joy that this should bring, joy even in the sufferings that go with Christian living. Paul is happy, joyful, in his mission to preach the word of the Gospel the good news that the mystery has been revealed. Jesus rejoiced that the secrets, the mystery, hidden for past ages had been revealed by the Father through him, to the “little ones” rather than to the wise and understanding (Matthew 11:25-30). For this, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21-22), just as Paul later would. The mystery was God’s saving plan through Christ, which could be variously expressed. For the epistle to the Ephesians it was God’s plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:9-10). For Paul to the Colossians it was: “Christ is with you, the hope of glory”. With Christ in the Church there is the glory of God’s presence, and the hope that it brings for here and eternity.

            The Church continues to use this term “mystery” and its riches of meaning to express her belief in her own nature and in the sacraments. The first chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church is headed: “The mystery of the Church”. As Pope Paul VI explained in his opening address at the second session of the Vatican Council (1961); “The Church is a mystery. It is a reality imbued with the hidden presence of God. It lies, therefore, within the very nature of the Church to be open to new and greater exploration.” The sacraments can be called mysteries, since the power of God is present in them, continuing the initial mystery of Christ and the foundation of the Church. St Ambrose composed discourses on sacraments which he described as “On the Mysteries.” The Eucharist is the mystery par excellence and in the Roman Missal (visible in particular in the revised English translation) mention is made of “these mysteries” in relation to it. The mystery of Christ is thus being continually proclaimed by word and sacrament.  In the words of Christ addressed to Martha, “only one thing is needful”, attention to the word of God brought to us by Jesus, attention to this whether we are reflective like Mary, Martha’s sister, or busy like Martha herself.

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