What is Mystagogy?

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Mystagogy: Savoring the Mystery of God

by Diana Macalintal
© 2007, Diana Macalintal.
All rights reserved.

Image from Imageafter.com. © 2003-2007 image*after and its licencees. Content is copyright-free.Whodunit? Secret? Science?

God is a mystery, but not like an Agatha Christie novel, or a secret reserved only for special people, or a math problem to be solved.

God is a mystery in the way that grandma’s love is a mystery; in the way you look at your child and can’t imagine anything more beautiful; in the way you marvel at how deeply you still love your spouse even after so many years of being together.

The mystery of God is something that makes us feel so immensely close to God and at the same time so in awe of the tremendous, incomprehensible wonder of God. There is no way to completely, fully express this feeling or describe it to another person. We can only say the same thing we tell children who ask us how they will know when they’re in love—”you’ll know it when it happens to you.”

The word “sacrament” comes from the same Greek root for the word “mystery.” Often, at the beginning of Mass, the priest will say, “to prepare ourselves to celebrate these sacred mysteries.” Every time we gather to celebrate the sacraments, we enter deeply into the mysterious love of God.

We experience this divine mystery most fully in the Eucharist—that intimate act of eating and drinking together with those named after the one we love the most: Christ.

Reflecting on the Mysteries

Those who have been preparing to be initiated into the Church and are then baptized, confirmed, and welcomed to the Eucharistic table at the Easter Vigil are the newest members to be “christened,” that is, named “Christ.” They are those who have most recently and fully been hit by God’s mysterious love. Now, they know what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ because they have experienced it for themselves.

Anyone who is new to love and the overwhelming nature of it needs time to reflect on what happened to them. This “looking backward” to a specific moment when they experienced God’s mysterious presence gives them direction and renewed commitment for moving forward. Just like looking back at wedding pictures can give us more hope and joy for the future, reflecting on the experience of the “mysteries”—the sacraments—can renew our commitment to live according to Christ’s name which was given to us at baptism.

The neophytes are those who were recently initiated into the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. During the Easter season, and often throughout the year after, they spend time reflecting on the mysteries. This process is called “mystagogy.” But their practice of mystagogy is simply a participation in what all baptized Christians are called to do. All of us who are baptized, whether last year or many years ago, are called to constantly reflect on our experience of God, discern its meaning, renew our commitment to our baptismal promises, and commit ourselves to living those promises in the ordinary events of our daily life.


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