(Editor’s note: this column was originally scheduled to be published before Easter. We apologize to readers and Rev. Twiddy for the delay.)
Do you like murder mysteries? You know, the great tradition that includes such worthies as Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and P.D. James.
Morse is one of my all-time favourites. How about you?
In detective fiction, the word mystery refers to discreet and often classy investigators solving complex cases. In its spiritual application, we use the word “mystery” in a different way.
Easter of course does contain a story of a judicial murder. Who dunnit? Was the death of Jesus caused by the civil or religious authorities? Was it an inside job betrayal? Was it mob psychology at work?
In a really good novel, we get the satisfaction of tracing clues and hints, avoiding the red herrings along the way, and a denouement where eventually we have the perpetrator disclosed and apprehended. (Unfortunately, my sense of pleasure at outing the murderer is usually tinged with a sense of disappointment as I reach the last few pages of the book. Oh no! It’s over!)
In the Easter Mystery, we are inducted into something that is bigger than ourselves.
The Greek word “mysterion” refers to knowledge that is bigger than our rational or calculating minds can comprehend. In fact, the whole Easter process is about taking us into a contemplative space, beyond the accounting metaphor where we define the victim and the perpetrator, and have different columns for the good guys and the bad guys.
It is Narnia. It is a world of radical grace. It is a world where no-one gets what we deserve. It’s called forgiveness and freedom. And it is called the resurrection of Christ.
There is no recrimination in the risen Christ. Only a restoration of his followers’ failings. In the lived experience of the disciples, the resurrection of Jesus moves them from merely surviving to fully thriving. They themselves go through a death of their surface personality, and a restoration to the life of their true self and fullest humanity.
This kind of mystery is a spacious place, where we know it is so, beyond what any words convey, and at the same time paradoxically we know so little, because the subject itself is so much bigger than us.
A murder mystery comes to a conclusion. A spiritual mystery comes to amazement and delight. It is inexhaustible and endless.
Try the prayer about the depth, the length, the breadth, and the height, of divine love shown to us in the cosmic Christ (Ephesians 2.18-19), if you would like to put this in a biblical context.
You can, of course, discover this on the beach, or hiking in the mountains. Silence and solitude can help. If prose is running dry, try poetry, drama, and music. Make your own!
— The Rev. Andrew Twiddy is the pastor of the Anglican parish of St. Anne and St. Edmund, Parksville. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.