Mystery Of Love
August 21, 2022
In preparation to be ordained a priest, I spent four years studying in a seminary. They were some of my life’s best, yet most challenging years. I met those who would become lifelong friends. During those years I tested and questioned myself more than almost any other time in my life. While discerning a calling to the priesthood is demanding, it is even more so for a gay man. I knew that a calling to serve God in His Church was a blessing, I just had to figure out what that meant exactly and how to carry my calling out. In other words, it was a considerable mystery to me. It was a blessing that was also a mystery.
One of the areas that we studied in preparation to become priests, was comparative religions, particularly monotheistic religions. The seminarians that I studied with had a running joke comparing other Christian denominations to the Orthodox Church. It went something like this: in Protestantism, there is no mystery, in Catholicism, every mystery must be explained, and in Orthodoxy, everything is a mystery. We were not known for our humility or respect for other faiths; the bluster of the perceived righteousness of youth…
The Orthodox Church talks frequently about mysteries. For example, the preferred term for the sacraments is mysteries. A mystery is usually defined as something that God has not revealed to his people because they would not be able to comprehend it. A common theme in Scripture is the mystery of God’s love for His people and the gift of eternal life bestowed upon them. (John 3:16) The concept of God’s love for fallen humanity is usually too ethereal for most people to contemplate, let alone understand. Most Orthodox Christians would certainly believe that God’s love for us is a mystery, and certainly a blessing. However, can something unknown and unexplainable ever be a blessing? Are mysteries a blessing?
In the beautiful song “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens, an American singer with Greek and Lithuanian heritage and an Armenian name, the empathic statement of “Blessed be the mystery of Love” is contextualized with events from history and the singer’s personal experiences. The lyrics of the song had me thinking about examples of love in my life, which are not only mysteries to me, but also blessings.
-God has blessed me with good health.
-God has blessed me to live in a country of freedom and safety.
-God has blessed me with a calling to the priesthood.
-God has blessed me with a husband who daily demonstrates his love for me.
And while I daily thank God for these blessings, the mystery to me is why I am blessed when:
-Numerous people suffer greatly from debilitating mental and physical ailments.
-Numerous people live in countries of severe repression for any demonstration of free thought.
-Numerous of my LGBT brothers and sisters are persecuted daily by family members, society, and governments for simply living their lives.
I am grateful for the blessings and quite mindful of the mysteries. But mindfulness is not enough, action on my part is required, because “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) So, less thinking, more action!