Celibate Mysteries – Br. Keith Nelson

Matthew 11:25-27

Celibate life can prompt some big, existential questions about the nature of human intimacy with God. When I look at the ring on my finger and imagine a similar ring on the (invisible) hand of Christ, I wonder: What does it mean to be invited to share an intimate relationship – the most intimate relationship — with someone who is so utterly mysterious?

All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. These words from Matthew find a striking parallel in John’s gospel: No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Both passages point to the Son as the agent of revelation, of God’s free and loving self-communication. Get to know Jesus, and you’ll get to know God. Without a doubt, that is our experience as Christians. But these passages also suggest that there is a dynamic relationship between revelation and mystery at the heart of the Christian life. Learning to love the mystery of Jesus teaches us to love the mystery of God.

In the midst of all that Jesus makes known to us, there remains an essential mystery at the heart of the Son, a secret known only by the Father in its fullness. We hear whispers of this secret in the Revelation to John: “He has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself.” But earlier in the same book, we overhear an equally mysterious secret on the lips of Jesus: “To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.” That token of admission to the heavenly banquet both reveals and conceals. It suggests a truth we find in lines from our own Rule: “Since Christ dwells in us we too are mysteries that cannot be fathomed, before which we must be silent until the day we come to know as we are known.” For now, the mystery that I am, the mystery that is me is invited to abide in the mystery that He Is – He who abides in the heart of the Father, to whom all things have been given. Heart speaks to heart and something, somehow, is understood.

As a celibate I do not, and cannot ever, know Christ in precisely the same way that I would know a human spouse. God is God, and I am mortal. But embracing the mystery of the Son opens a world in which there is always more to be discovered about Jesus, more of himself to be revealed to me, and more of him for me to love with each passing moment. Perhaps this dimension of our celibacy can bear fresh witness to the infinite horizon of mystery at the heart of the Father, and the peace that surpasses all understanding in the heart of the Son.

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