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The “musterion”

Thomas Aquinas was most likely one of the most prolific writers/thinkers concerning Christian thought. His works, such as the Summa, completely revolutionized the way Christian leaders thought, and has had an indelible impression on the concepts of spiritual formation. Ironically enough, this great mind was changed forever in an encounter with God during Mass on December 6, 1273. After that day Aquinas refused to write anymore concerning God. He stated, “I can do no more; such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems as straw, and now I await the end of my life.” Aquinas was struck by the amazing grandeur of God and was left speechless! In our current culture it is common for us to bear the necessity to have all things figured out. The common person desires to have all the answers, which innately produces a sort of comfort for one’s mind and heart. The student needs to completely understand the curriculum. The doctor needs to know the specific diagnosis (rightfully so). Even sometimes, regrettably so, the theologian needs to structure all the “facts” of God in order to formulate his view and understanding of God’s character and nature, even God Himself.

With this concept in mind, isn’t it somewhat contradicting to listen to the words of Paul written in his first letter to Timothy? Paul refers to the Christian life as that of “a mystery.” The Greek word for mystery is musterion. Musterion is actually a derivative of the Greek word uvw muo, which translated means “to shut the mouth.” The need to “shut the mouth” usually lends itself to the fact that there is an inability on the part of the speaker to concisely explain the concept using basic terminology, or even the most complex terminology. If something is a musterion, it’s unexplainable holistically.

Christianity, or perhaps better stated, “godliness,” is completely a mystery. Who can completely explain how we (fallen men and women with depraved hearts) can undergo a morphing process and strive to be Christlike? Or even more so, that Christ would go through what He went through for us? It’s unfathomable! Since the Christian life is one so full of mystery, rather than attempting to pry apart and dismantle it (process of formulization), isn’t it worthy of taking heed to the words spoken to us long ago in Psalms 46:10—“Be still and know that I am God …”—and humbly stand in awe and wonder of it all?

Dig Deeper:

1 Timothy 3:14-16

The Christian life and certain elements of faith are truly a mystery, not necessarily in need of explanation, but rather adoration.

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