My advisor says that people who like to read mysteries like the end best of all. There’s that page near the very end, right before the closing, that ties up all the loose strands in a tidy bow. It’s so satisfying, with a good mystery, to feel as if I helped solve the case or discovered the killer, just a bit ahead of the protagonist. Kenneth Burke says the satisfaction is in the form of the mystery novel. People like me, who love mysteries, are form junkies. We get our fix from having a puzzle to solve and either solving it, or having it solved before our eyes, so we can see how it works.
The reason I haven’t updated the blog in a while or been online, even, is that I have been reading. I’m reading that Jane Austen mystery right now. There’s another mystery I want to read (Traci Hilton… I’m looking at you), but I haven’t managed to order a copy yet. I get a bit crazy at this time of year, gobbling up mysteries as fast as I can get them; I need the form, probably anticipating the close of the semester and everything working out just so. There are mysteries in the Bible, and in my quest to read all the mysteries I can get my hands on, I started investigating.
I busted out my dusty-trusty concordance for this, because I knew some Scriptures that dealt with mysteries, but don’t have an exhaustive list. I kept thinking about how the mysteries of God are not like the mysteries I read. Matthew 13:11 “He said to them, ‘Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but it is not given to them…I speak to them in parables, because they do not see, and they do not hear, nor do they understand.” So, Christ spoke in parables that are clues to the mysteries of the kingdom. That sounds like I need my decoder ring, but I’ll go with it.
Romans 16:25-26 “Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith.” This mystery has already been reveled through the prophetic writings, that a Messiah would come and save his people. There’s already been that Miss Marple moment, where the sleuth reveals the true mover and shaker of the story.
I Cor. 2:7 “No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” This mystery is an old one. It’s ages in the making. In my everyday mystery reading, I don’t have that kind of patience. I gave up on LOST after season 3 because it didn’t solve enough, fast enough. We are a fast-moving society and we want the answers now, pronto, yesterday. God-mysteries don’t work that way.
I Cor. 15:51 “Behold I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Prophecy scholars would say this is the bedrock of the Gospel, that we will take part in the bodily resurrection of Christ by being resurrected ourselves at some point in the future, translated from living to eternal living. I like the idea of sharing in the birth, death and resurrection of the Lord, but I don’t like the attitude that comes from living too much in the future, constantly scanning the papers and news channels for evidence that this might be our last day on Earth. I look forward to Christ’s return, but I am called to live each day as if it might be the last. It’s the true nature of the mystery, the already and the not yet in that time between before time and the point at which time shall be no more.
I can’t approach prophecy in the same way as I used to. I can’t see the point of focusing on whether or not there will be a Rapture or who might be the Beast or the Anti-Christ or what the mark might be. To me, that’s like skipping ahead to the last chapter of my mystery novel. It keeps me from enjoying the story. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. That’s enough for me to attempt to be about the Father’s business. I wonder how much time is wasted bickering amongst prophecy big-wigs about details loosely based on Scripture, who miss the story arc — we are supposed to be doing the work of Christ while we’re here.
There are other mysteries in the Bible, the mystery of salvation, the mystery of grace, the mystery of the Eucharist. I don’t understand them. Unlike the mysteries I read in novels, these mysteries, I am trusting, will be revealed someday, and in the meantime, I am comfortable taking the revelation of those mysteries on faith. Performing these mysteries, acting in grace because of my salvation, received through his sacrifice, remembered in the Eucharist, is the form that satisfies.