Monday, November 8, 2010

"Mystery" - a Two-Day Immersion

Just back from the Diocese of Springfield (Illinois) Adult Enrichment Conference, where the theme was "Entering the Mystery, Renewing the People" - primarily a liturgical catechesis experience designed as anticipation for the upcoming Third Edition of the Roman Missal. The conference featured a variety of speakers, but I went mostly to hear Fr. Richard Fragomeni and Fr. Paul Turner (more on his sessions on the new Roman Missal in a later post).  What I experienced was an immersion into the concept of "mystery."

Fr.  Fragomeni, well known for his extraordinary skill in liturgical catechesis, explored the concepts of mystery and imagination from a Catholic point of view - in his two-part keynote and breakout sessions. In his typically expansive and enthusiastic style, he  defined "mystery" as "a beauty of infinite comprehensibility" - and something that we do not have to enter... because we are totally immersed in it from the moment we are conceived. He said we can never be outside of mystery, unless we consciously reject it - and that is the definition of Hell (according to St. Therese of Liseux) . Therefore, he suggested, we "celebrate" rather than enter mystery.

He explained  the proof that we and mystery are inseparable consists of our ability to express 4 elements - our humility (we realize that everything, including ourselves, is passing)  generosity (giving without counting the cost) hospitality (when host is so generous you don't feel like a guest) and bedazzlement (a perpetual state of wonder).   This, he contends, is what it is to be the Church, which in effect becomes an 8th sacrament - a celebration of God's presence in us.

Two other speakers I heard took up the challenge to explore "mystery."  Susan Grenough related it to an exploration of symbol, silence and science (fractals, partical physics...) and modeled how to use these to involve learners.  Jo Ann Paradise talked about the ultimate mystery, the Trinity, as a relational dynamic, giving examples of theological analogies and models throughout the ages. (Augustine, for example, saw fire as a model of the Trinity: the Father is the flame, the Son is the light, and the Spirit is the warmth - three attributes of one unity.)

All of this meant that the conference experience on that level, at least, was uplifting and renewing. The sessions on the underlying reason for the subject, the new Roman Missal, both participated in that hope-filled and positive sense of mystery and an equal measure of frustration (mostly unspoken, but occasionally admitted..more later on that score.)  It's good to be back to reality after two days of metaphysical exploration - and somewhat frustrating... but that's life.

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