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Beyond All Telling: Proclaiming the Mystery of Faith

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.

-G.K. Chesterton

Love requires deep knowledge of the beloved, but how can we deeply know the ineffable I AM?

Love requires encounter and mutual gift between persons, but how can we encounter a Triune God we seemingly cannot see or hear or touch? How do we recognize the gifts we have been given, and what have we to give in return?

The purpose of this blog is to encourage a holy love affair. Its method is to embrace the madness: to explore but never seek to tame the mystery of communion with Love and Being Itself.

It is easy to find “tellings” of religion: systematic theology, scriptural exegesis, tips and tricks and exhortations on how to pray, how to identify and conquer sin, how to explain your faith to others. 

But in the rich prayers of Mass, we several times find the phrase “beyond all telling.” God and Love are far too big to be adequately told, and that is why we call them mysteries.

Probably the best known of these comes from Preface II of Advent: “the Virgin Mother longed for him with love beyond all telling.” The first purpose of this blog is to encourage our love for God and for the imago Dei found in each of our neighbors, to grow into the ever-greater reality of the Blessed Mother’s love, to the point where it surpasses all telling.

Also well-known is the Exsultet–the “Proclamation” sung near the beginning of the solemn high Mass of Easter Vigil. It exclaims:

“O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”

This is the heart of the Gospel–the self-emptying love and sacrifice of Christ. And yet how well do we understand the nature of redemption? What does sacrifice mean for us, especially when Jesus enjoins us to take up our cross daily? There are plenty of diagnoses and prescriptions for sin. But do you know in your bones the felix culpa?

There are a few more times the phrase “beyond all telling” occurs in the liturgy, which also broaden our online meditation.

The priest offers this prayer on the 4th Sunday of Lent: “O God, who renew the world through mysteries beyond all telling, grant… that your Church may be guided by your eternal design and not be deprived of your help in this present age.” When we think of mysterious eternal design and help in the present age, we think of miracles, mystics, and the Communion of Saints, mysterious threads woven into the tapestry of Providence.

At the Chrism Mass during Holy Week, the sacred oils used in Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Ordination are blessed with the invocation, “O God, author of the sacraments and bestower of life, we give you thanks for your goodness beyond all telling: in the old covenant you foreshadowed the mystery of sanctifying Oil, and when the fullness of time came, you willed that this same mystery should shine forth uniquely in your beloved Son.” The sacraments are essential means provided to us to tangibly encounter the Lord and receive grace, so grasping their potency is another key purpose of this blog.

Finally, the Preface for the Feast of the Annunciation recapitulates in another key the first of these mysteries from the heart of Our Lady: “Lovingly she bore him in her immaculate womb, that the promises to the children of Israel might come about and the hope of nations be accomplished beyond all telling.” The Hope of Nations reminds us of the imperative to go out into the world to tell the Good News, to bring the Gospel of the love we have encountered to all the broken world through our daily interactions with family and neighbors and in the public square.

Together let us proclaim the mystery of faith!

Established April 11, 2017 under the patronage of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Gemma Galgani.