“So if I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Taken from

My wife introduced me to the song “Mystery” by Rory Cooney back in 1988, and I have always found its poetic play on unresolved paradoxes to be very profound.

Whether it be pseudo-Dionysius’ “dark ray of light,” Gregory of Nyssa’s “sober intoxication,” Nicholas of Cusa’s “learnèd ignorance” or Marguerite Porete’s description of God as the “Far-Near,” I find that the tense space between unresolved contraries in theology opens space not for illogical contradiction, but for the supra-logical diction of divine mystery. A professor with whom I studied the works of theologian Hans Urs von Balthsar defined mystery this way:

Divine mystery is not essentially defined by a defect of ignorance in the finite human being. Rather, divine mystery is defined by the infinitely excessive character of divine being … We require horizons, limits, to locate ourselves, to define our landscape and comprehend; but God has no horizons. That makes mystics dizzy.

Or again, Fr. Tom Hopko explained it in a more uniquely Christian way,

Christian orthodoxy is paradoxy because orthodoxy means the Cross, God’s foolish wisdom, which has opened up a new logic, the logic of the crucified and risen Logos and his totally new creation. There the rule is, in the words of Augustine — cui servire, regnare est — “the one who serves is the one who reigns.” And in the New Creation service looks like the crucified, bloodied, dying Christ who from the Cross forgives all and love all.

Or, yet again, GK Chesterton famously said,

Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious.

I include here the embedded mp3 of “Mystery” if you have a quiet 5 minutes:


2 comments on “Mystery

  1. Rory Cooney says:

    Thank you for this. Lovely to encounter such a generous and thoughtful spirit. I’m grateful for the mention of my music. And very clever blog name, btw.

    • Rory: I am thrilled to know you found this post. My wife and I fell in love with your work in the 1980s, above all because of the exceptional texts you write which combine depth and poetic beauty. Thank you for your gifts to the church’s musical tradition! Tom Neal

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