Let Us Proclaim the Mystery of Faith

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith…
The words rang out singsong, a little off-key, echoing across the altar, tumbling down the stone steps and the center aisle, awaiting our response.

We sang our prayer back to the priest on cue, our voices monotone with the droning organ: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again...

I never thought much about those words, neither the proclamation the priest sang at the altar, nor our answer from the pews. I simply repeated the required lines, yawning and shifting from foot to foot.

Just recently, though, more than 25 years later, I’ve come back to them. 

I fill the dishwasher, toss errant sneakers and flip flops into the shoe basket by the door, raise the matchstick blinds over the living room couch, singing the old familiar words as I work. 

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith…  
My voice rises and falls. I dig deeply, remembering the cadence of the priest’s voice, practicing to match the tone just right as I throw muddy socks and stained tee shirts into the washer, as I dump a basket of warm clothes on the bed, as I butter bagels hot and yeasty from the toaster oven.
My kids glance warily at me over their books, leery of the chanting. They're not entirely surprised their mother is acting like a monk, but not entirely comfortable with it either.

I don’t much like mystery. I prefer answers, concrete, black-and-white answers. I like to know the beginning, middle and end…even before I’ve begun -- to know where I am going and exactly how I am going to get there. I would have made a great urban engineer or city planner. Except that I can’t navigate my way out of a one-way alley, even with the GPS lady chastising from the dashboard.

The thing about faith, though, is that very little of it makes sense. At least to me. My kids lob questions at me that I can’t answer. I read about inexplicable tragedies that can’t possibly compute with my understanding of God. I can’t even wrap my mind around the very basic tenets of Christianity, like the resurrection and eternal salvation. It’s all simply beyond me.

It used to really bother me, that there was so little I could know for sure about God and Jesus. But I think I might be beginning to lean into it a little more, to rest more comfortably in the not knowing.

It seems I might finally be ready to proclaim the mystery of faith.
“People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.”
-- Richard Rohr
What about you? Do you proclaim the mystery of faith? Or do you fight against it a little bit? 

With Jennifer...

And Emily...

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Christie Purifoy  – (May 9, 2012 at 7:15 AM)  

For a long time I've taken pride (!) in my appreciation of mystery and ambiguity. I love writing about mystery, especially. But lately, I've been humbled to recognize that I am comfortable with unanswered questions in some areas of life and not in others. It seems there are some issues, some experiences in which I do crave certainty. I'm feeling much more compassionate towards those who cling to all that seems black and white. I realize now how much we have in common.

Wendy Paine Miller  – (May 9, 2012 at 7:17 AM)  

I love the mystery of it. Makes me feel that much more that God is above, sovereign, and all around greater. Good thoughts today.

Gaby  – (May 9, 2012 at 7:42 AM)  

I'm like you: more black and white and less gray so all the mystery that it is faith can be difficult for me. Ultimately time after time I come back to this: I don't have to know all the answers; I only need to know that Christ loves me and died for me. The rest I guess I learn to live without day after day. 

Kelly J Youngblood  – (May 9, 2012 at 8:28 AM)  

I DO like the mystery of faith, and I wonder if part of it is because of these very words you wrote.  When I saw the title "Let Us Proclaim the Mystery of Faith" my brain *immediately* went to the response--before I even read your next words!  And I've not been a practicing Catholic for a very long time.  I wish I'd remembered these words when I had questions and doubts.

Megan Willome  – (May 9, 2012 at 8:29 AM)  

And that's why it's the "mystery of faith." We don't get it.

BTW, they've changed that part. I really miss the old way. Although the new one is pretty, it lacks the perfect poetic symmetry of "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."

Sheila Seiler Lagrand  – (May 9, 2012 at 8:30 AM)  

I love the mystery.

Now. After fighting for years to "understand" because isn't that what we all expect to want....to "get it"? It still sneaks up and bites me, this  desire to know what I'm not intended to know. 

I have to choose the mystery every day. 

Ro elliott –   – (May 9, 2012 at 8:32 AM)  

I have heard older(even older than me) people share about their journey and say I feel like I am just in kindergarden...in my youth, I thought to myself...sure...right...but now when I hear it...I  know too...I am in kindergarden...isn’t it part of the upside down kingdom...not to advance in “school” grades...but to become like a child...to get “demoted” back down to kindergarden.  great post...blessings as we go backwards but forwards...part of the Mystery:)

JosephPote –   – (May 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM)  

My father is a very gifted Bible teacher, who truly has a passion for teaching.

I remember one time, when I was about 12 years old, Papa drew a small circle on a blackboard, "Everything inside the circle represents what I know.  Everything outside the circle represents what I don't know.  The circle, itself, represents what I know that I don't know."

Then he drew a larger circle, "As my knowledge grows, so does my realization of how much I don't know."

Mysteries, indeed!

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 9, 2012 at 10:06 AM)  

I am so bummed by the changes! I am old-school when it comes to the Catholic liturgy (well, not totally old-school; I don't want to go back to the Latin or anything like that!). I haven't been to Mass in a while because I haven't been back to MA to visit my parents in a while -- this summer maybe...

KimberlyCoyle –   – (May 9, 2012 at 10:23 AM)  

I once heard a sermon in which the pastor tried to explain the plagues of Egypt by using historical events and possible natural phenomena. I remember being so disappointed because I would so much rather believe in the mystery. I find the more I grow in faith, the less I know, and the more I embrace the mystery of God. Really thought provoking post!

soulstops –   – (May 9, 2012 at 4:00 PM)  

I'm with you, Michelle...learning to lean into the mysteries of faith...otherwise why would I need faith if it was clear-cut?  Blessings to you :)

pastordt –   – (May 9, 2012 at 8:12 PM)  

Michelle, Michelle! Of all my favorites from you, this one is right at the top. The TOP. This giving yourself to writing full time? GENIUS. I love every single syllable of this. You speak my heart with this one - right there in the center of me. Thank you.

brian miller  – (May 9, 2012 at 10:10 PM)  

the thing about faith is very little of it makes sesnse...ha...true that...and i am glad there are still some mysteries left you know...we are so bent on figuring everything out...i think they makes room for a little awe...smiles.

dukeslee  – (May 9, 2012 at 10:53 PM)  

I both proclaim it and fight it. I have a two-faced heart. This one speaks deeply to me, Michelle, as you would probably guess based on my history. 

As usual, you rocked it. 

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:20 AM)  

Me, too, Jennifer, me too - that's why we get along so well!

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:20 AM)  

So true, Brian, so true: mysteries make room for awe. I love the way you put that.

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:21 AM)  

Wow, Diana, you are so kind! I'm so glad this resonated with you - I've been turning these thoughts over in my head for several days now (while proclaiming the mystery of faith aloud, of course!).

I am LOVING being a full-time writer - every day I jump out of bed, thrilled with the opportunity to do what I love all day long!

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM)  

Joe, what a great illustration - you father was a gifted teacher indeed. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of his wisdom with me here.

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM)  

Absolutely. I think I once read something by Rob Bell that was along the lines of, "If I can answer every question, then that makes me God...and I don't really want to be God."

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:33 AM)  

See, I, on the other hand, probably would have liked the historical explanation of the plagues - that goes right along with my black and white approach to life!

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:34 AM)  

Oh I love that Ro - "blessings as we go backward s but forwards..." that is the perfect explanation of the upside down kingdom.

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:34 AM)  

"Choose mystery" -- I love that, Sheila. Maybe that needs to become my new mantra?!

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:35 AM)  

I know what you mean, Kelly. I'm going to try to remember these words, too, when the doubts creep in.

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:35 AM)  

It's so simple-complicated, isn't it Gaby? I know I make it more complicated than it needs to be. You've boiled it right down to the essence here, and you are so right!

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:36 AM)  

Wendy I would have guessed you would embrace mystery - you are so open and accepting like that -- one of the things I love about you!

Michelle DeRusha  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:37 AM)  

I'm basically uncomfortable with ALL unanswered questions, so you are at least a head of me on the accepting mystery spectrum!

Courtney Buxton  – (May 10, 2012 at 12:49 PM)  

Ah, yes. I love that quote at the end - I am utterly humbled by the mystery. I am comfortable with it, at least at this point in my life. The mystery allows me to rest, realizing that I don't have to know it all. It definitely adds to the "awe" factor for me. 

Glenda Childers –   – (May 10, 2012 at 7:48 PM)  

I love your proclaiming, Michelle.

Emily Wierenga –   – (May 10, 2012 at 10:22 PM)  

oh i love this. i love that you were chanting. i love that your children looked at you warily. and that you were celebrating not knowing, just being... with Christ, in your kitchen. so wonderful dear michelle! love you. e.

Ryan Manahan  – (March 10, 2013 at 10:24 AM)  

I read your post and find it very odd. To accept something as a "mystery" seems to me like you're giving up and just accepting this mantra, this chant, as something beautiful and powerful and real. This is honestly very alarming to me.

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