The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished with this world; they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do. We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being, because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…. Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world; it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world. It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation. Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer from God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Embracing the Universe
Living a spiritual life makes our little, fearful hearts as wide as the universe, because the Spirit of Jesus dwelling within us embraces the whole of creation. Jesus is the Word, through whom the universe has been created. As Paul says, “In him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible—all things were created through him and for him—in him all things hold together” (Collossians 1:16–17). Therefore, when Jesus lives within us through his Spirit, our hearts embrace not only all people but all of creation. Love casts out all fear and gathers in all that belongs to God. Prayer, which is breathing with the Spirit of Jesus, leads us to this immense knowledge.
Love unites all, whether created or uncreated. The heart of God, the heart of all creation, and our own hearts become one in love. That’s what all the great mystics have been trying to tell us through the ages. Benedict, Francis, Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewijch of Brabant, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Dag Hammarskjöld, Thomas Merton, and many others, all in their own ways and their own languages, have witnessed to the unifying power of the divine love. All of them, however, spoke with a knowledge that came to them not through intellectual arguments but through contemplative prayer. The Spirit of Jesus allowed them to see the heart of God, the heart of the universe, and their own hearts as one. It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realization of the unity of all that is, created and uncreated.
— Henri Nouwen from Bread for the Journey
Two things about the story of the Magi can relate to our personal epiphanies. First, there is a star. God sends a star that’s more than a star. It’s a sign. It has a message. The Magi are different because they look up and see the stars. They are searching and sensitive to creation.
We are surrounded by stars, but do we see the signs? Do we hear the message? There is a way to live life where one never looks up at the stars. The Magi are called “wise because they look up! They realize that there is more to life. They believe there is a reality beyond us that wants to communicate to us. They stop, to listen, to be receptive.
— Mark A. Villano from Time to Get Ready
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
— Mary Oliver from Evidence: Poems