" 'Mystery' is about personal experience of God and the inexhaustible riches of ever-unfolding meaning available through God's self-revelation. Used in the context of Christian faith, 'mystery' refers to 'truth hidden which has been revealed; something unapproachable which invites entry, something unknowable which offers true understanding.' Devotional knowledge of the mysteries of faith is more than knowing about them as spectator or observer; it is knowing oneself as drawn into them as participant.
"Mysteries of faith are allusive. The God of biblical experience invites our reach eludes our grasp. Mysteries defy domestication. They aren't subjects for analysis, control, or other forms of manipulation. What we say about God is always by way of analogy. This means that what we say about or how we image God is more unlike than like God. God is like a shepherd. God is like a mother hen. But God is not confined by or limited to these names or images or any others. Mysteries demand, on the one hand, that we not make them inaccessible, but, on the other, that we dare not tame them by trying to make them more reasonable or more comfortable. In this sense might we not say that mystagogues are 'guardians' of mystery?
"There is a story told of a mother cat out for a stroll with her three kittens when confronted by a ferocious-looking dog headed in their direction. Under siege, she quickly ushers her kittens under a nearby porch. She then proceeds to move directly toward the dog. When she comes up eyeball-to-eyeball with him, she barks as loudly as she can, 'Ruff, ruff, ruff!' Startled by this unexpected turn of events, the dog turns abruptly and, with its tail between its legs, runs in the opposite direction. With that, the mother cat retrieves her kittens and, shaking a paw at them, says, 'Now do you see why I want you to learn a second language?'
"As Daniel Matthews, rector of Trinity Church in New York, has pointed out, many of us in ministry today are faced with the challenge of learning a 'second language.' Not just Spanish or English, but the language of mystery. Many religiously and spiritually educated people are quite adept at speaking the language of rationality; fewer, the language of mystery. In Western culture in particular, we tend, perhaps, to idolize reason. We've been taught to theorize, analyze, synthesize, criticize, categorize, and, consequently, suffer the illusion that everything can be understood or explained. This, unfortunately, leaves little space for mystery, which is at the core of religious belief and experience. Faith is built on truths (not to the exclusion of goodness and beauty) that transcend reason.
"We struggle with the ineffability of the experience of the presence of a God who is unpredictable (save for an unwavering fidelity). We stumble, fumble, and stutter as we try to learn this 'second language' of mystery, to find expression for things we can't see but somehow know; can't explain but somehow understand; moments that are real but resist articulation. The language of mystery includes paradox, metaphor, the language of passion, parable, ritual, and, ultimately, silence."