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“Mystery” in Paul of Tarsus and Ignatius of Loyola

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The article seeks to study the meaning of the theme “Mystery” in St. Paul and St. Ignatius of Loyola
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  “Mystery” in Paul of Tarsus and Ignatius of Loyola  [In the context of the Church’s celebration of the year of St. Paul (From June 28,2008, to June 29, 2009) this article seeks to study the meaning of the theme “Mystery” in St. Paul and St. Ignatius] 01Introduction: Mystery of Salvation in the lives of Paul and Ignatius Scripture offers invaluable primary historical sources for Paul’s life: his letters andthe Acts of the Apostles. In addition, we have several early traditions about him outside of Scripture. Paul was probably born between the years A.D. 5 and 10, just a few years after Jesus. His parents were strictly observant Jews living in the city of Tarsus, the prosperouscapital of Cilicia, a province of the Roman Empire in what is now Turkey. In one of hisletters he recalled of his youth: “I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own ageamong my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal 1:14).It was apparently this religious zealotry that led the young man to persecute Christians,whom he must have viewed as a new and dangerous cult, threatening the Pharisaictraditions he so passionately embraced. But God had other plans for Paul. On the road toDamascus, the Risen Christ himself showed up, in an appearance so powerful that itknocked Paul to the ground and blinded him. Paul was confronted with the reality that theMan of Nazareth who had been crucified truly was raised from the dead as His followersclaimed. This Man, he came to realize, was in fact the divine Son of God in the flesh, theChrist (or Messiah) long promised to His people. In opposing the Church, Paul had beenopposing the God he had wanted to serve. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” theLord told him. Then He gave the trembling man instructions about how he was to begin theradically new life that lay ahead for him. Paul had become a follower of Christ, called to anew mission to preach the Gospel of his new Lord to the world.In the castle of Loyola in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa, Ignatius was born in1491 of Beltrán Loyola and Doña Marina. Though his father had planned for him a career in the Church, Ignatius manifested a strong inclination to a military career. Hence he   wassent to Juan Velazquez de Cuellar in Arevalo, the chief treasurer of the royal court of KingFerdinand V and the queen Isabella, the Catholic. It was here that Ignatius receivedthe basic formation of a Spanish gentleman and courtier. During these years that1  Ignatius got acquainted with the books on gallant chivalry. The reading of these booksfilled his mind with the disordered idealization of woman and sensuous expressions of human love. The people in his home town thought of Ignatius in deplorable terms. Abouthis valorous life, Ignatius himself has this to narrate to Luis Gongalves da Câmara: "Up to theage of twenty-six he was a man given to the follies of the world; and what he enjoyed mostwas warlike sport, with a great and foolish desire to win fame.” 1 It was at Pamplona that Inigo de Loyola was to shed his blood. On May 20, 1521, the French artillerymen had set up their cannons before the walls of Pamplona. Eventhough the French offered terms of surrender, Ignatius managed to persuade the governor not to accept them. The bombardment by the French troops lasted six hours, and at theend of six hours a part of the wall crumbled and at this moment Ignatius had positionedhimself right at the breach. With undaunted courage he went with drawn sword tomeet the opponents. Then cannon ball struck and shattered his right shin-bone.During his convalescence in Loyola, since he was much given to reading books onchivalry, he asked for some books of that kind. But what he really got were a  Lifeof Christ  and a book of the  Lives of Saints in Spanish. The reading of these booksand the consequent experience of the stirring of the different spirits during hisconvalescence were, for Ignatius, a point of departure which brought about anexperience of complete conversion. The experience of conversion which started inthe castle of Loyola was later symbolically and definitively expressed atMontserrat by placing his sword and dagger in the church of Our Lady after having made a general confession in writing which lasted for three days. Thiscomplete surrender prompted Ignatius to give up the livery of a soldier and takeon the tunic of a pilgrim. The self image of a pilgrim, ever in search of the will of God, remained with him as a spiritual force of interior transformation throughouthis life. 02“Mystery”: Biblical Perspective The Greek word “Mystery” ( mystērion) refers to something ineffable andinaccessible to discursive. It refers to deeper level of spiritual experience. 2   The word isfound in the Greek Bible only in a few late books like Daniel, Wisdom, and Deutero Isaiah.2  The actual background of this word is the Aramaic rāz  , which means a secret thing andthus corresponds to the classical Hebrew word  sōd. In the Old Testament, the idea of God’s secrets was well-known to Israel from the era of the prophets. These secrets were primarily concerned with the plan of salvation which God realizes in human history andwhich consists of the object of revelation. The historic destiny of Israel corresponds to adivine plan previously revealed through the prophetic word, and it is this which assures thecoming of salvation at the end of time. 3 These notions form the background of the scientificand sacred concept of the mystery which is found in both Daniel and the book of Wisdom.The book of Daniel is apocalyptic, that is to say, a revelation of divine “secrets” ( rāz ) . Thesecrets concern things which will be realized in time. They are the mysteries of the plan of salvation. God is the revealer of mysteries (Dan 2:28, 47). The book of Wisdom, in accordwith the book of Daniel, applies the term “mystery” to transcendent realities which are theobject of revelation 4 .“In the 28 NT passages in which mystērion is found it has neither a cultic nor a purely secular meaning.” 5 The Jewish sense of humanly inaccessible mystery of God, set inmotion by God himself in his acts of salvation and judgment in the past, present and futureare determining elements in this regard. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke theword mystērion is found only once; in the Gospel of John, never. “To you has been giventhe secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything is in parables…” 6 Herethe “secret of the kingdom” refers to those doctrines and truths pertaining to the Kingdomor reign of God which Christ made clear to his disciples, but which to others were scarcelyintelligible and remained obscure, taught only in parables. In terms of content, the term‘mystery’ in the NT refers primarily to the saving acts of God in Christ. 7 03.“Mystērion” According to Paul  Paul uses the word mystērion in the same perspective of the Jewish apocalypticliterature exemplified in Daniel 2: 18-19, 27-30; 4:6 and in Wisdom 2:22. There the“secrets” or “mysteries” of God refer to God’s saving plan which is to be realized in the“last times” (the eschaton ). 8 More specifically, the word “ mystery ” for Paul denotes a profound and ineffable reality. It does reveal a glimpse of the infinite. In 1Cor 2:1 Pauldesignates his proclamation of the crucified Christ as the mystery of God. This saving3  event is inaccessible to human reason precisely because it appears to human reason to befoolishness. Its object is the  gospel  : the realization of salvation by the death andresurrection of Christ. “Mys tērion” points to the divine secret, incomprehensible to humanintellect without revelation 9 and thus preserves its eschatological overtones. At the sametime this “ m ys tērion” of the wisdom of God is apocalyptically described as an element of salvation, hidden by God in heaven before the ages, kept ready for our glory to come, andnow revealed through his Spirit (1 Cor 2:7, 10) 10 . The foretold salvation is realized throughthe successive stages. In this sense, the “mystery of God” encompasses all of sacred historyin the Old and the New Testaments. We have here the complete plan of God’s self revelation in the biblical history. The ideal of Christian life consists in the knowledge,contemplation and experience of this mystery. 11 3.1“Mystery” in Colossians and Ephesians It is in Paul’s letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians that the 'mystery of Christ'is opened to its full significance. In these letters the fully developed plan of revelation ismade known. In Col 1: 26 the ‘mystery’ encompasses the context of the whole savingactivity of God directed towards the entire world, “hidden for ages and generations”, as the plan of salvation, but now revealed to Christians and realized through their proclamation of Christ among the nations. The ‘mystery’ is thus nothing but the Christ proclaimed amongthe nations. “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are theriches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27) 12 .Here the mystery of the indwelling Christ—“Christ in you” is very significant and themovement from Israel to the Gentiles corresponds to Paul's own personal vocation andmission.It is striking that in Col 1:3 believers’ lives are said to be hidden ‘withChrist in God’. They are really ‘in God’, because they are bound up with Christ, who ishimself in God. ‘Hiddenness’ is not just a spiritual concept. It is vitally related to God’ssalvific plan for the history of the human race. That which is hidden in heaven is yet to berevealed in history. Even though the mystery of God’s plan for salvation has been revealedin Christ, part of it still remains hidden including the true nature of believers’ relationshipwith the glorified Christ. It awaits full revelation at the consummation. 13 4  In Ephesians 14 ,the word ‘mystery’ lacks the eschatological element in the sense itrefers to that which God has already accomplished, therefore to a present reality. At 1: 9,the ‘mystery’ is the realization of God’s creative and saving will on a cosmic scale in the bringing together of all things in Christ. In Eph 3:3-4 the mystery of Christ refers to theincorporation of Gentiles into the body of Christ, the Church: “When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets bythe Spirit; that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”The Pauline refrain, ‘in Christ’, (‘in him’) is very much present in the letter to theColossians. The mystery of Christ appears here as the recapitulation of all things in him.Everything, in Christ, is brought together in the Oneness which is God. There is areconciliation of creatures with God and a reconciliation of creatures - alienated from eachother - in God. For Paul, this mystery, now at work on earth for the salvation of believers,is engaged in a struggle with the “mystery of iniquity”, that is to say, with the activity of Satan (2 Thes 2:7). In the captivity epistles (Col & Eph), Paul’s attention is centered on the present aspect of the “Mystery of God” (Col 2:2); the “mystery of Christ” (Col 4:3; Eph3:4) effecting salvation by means of His Church. A continuous progression thus leads fromthe mystery envisaged by the Jewish apocalypses to the “mystery of the Kingdom of God”revealed by Jesus, and finally to the mystery of Christ proclaimed by the apostle of thenations. 03.2Paul’s Experience of the Mystery of the Cross In the life of Paul, there is an undeniable reality: While at the beginning he had been a persecutor of the Christians, from the moment of his conversion on the road toDamascus, he came over to the side of Christ crucified, making him the reason for his life,his ministry and the object for his preaching 15 .“I have been crucified with Christ; it is nolonger I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live byfaith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” 16 In the encounter with Jesus, he had understood the central meaning of the cross of Christ: Jesus had died5
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