Colossians 1:15-23, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, Jude 1:24-25
Have you ever found it impossible to explain something? I used to backpack the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland every summer. I don’t know why I kept going back to the same place again and again. Pictures or grand words could never capture the reality of just being there. It has always been a struggle to explain my love for it. I have since learned to say, “It’s just mysterious.”
I’ve learned to do this with things of the faith as well. Eugene Peterson, in his book Unnecessary Pastor, says this about mystery: “Mystery is not the lack of meaning; it’s more meaning than we can comprehend.” I don’t throw myself on the mystery “excuse” so I can dodge conversations, but so I can fully engage them. What we find with mystery is the freedom to say some pretty amazing things without fully comprehending them or knowing how to explain them perfectly.
Paul most likely didn’t write this part of Scripture. Sure, he penned the letter, but this is an early Christian hymn birthed in the worship life of the infant Church. This is some of the earliest (and best) Christian theology we have. Paul is not sharing with the Colossians something new; he is reminding them of a song they already know. This song is the basis of Paul’s letter to them, and one of the earliest faith statements of the Church. In fact, as you journey further into the letter to the Colossians, you will see the themes of this song woven throughout. It is inescapable.
I believe the words of this hymn not because I can make perfect sense of them, but because I can’t. The mystery of Christ is far too rich, far too deep, far too mysterious for me to not believe. There is no way we can explain who “the image of the invisible” is without sooner or later leaning on mystery. Fully human and fully divine, Creator of all things, in Him all things hold together—these are statements that stretch our imagination to see beyond that which we can comprehend. And these are core beliefs of the worshipping church to whom Paul is writing.
The real beauty comes not when we can recite the hymn or know its intricacies, but when it captures us. When it moves us to worship. When we realize that He, Christ—who is, in His flesh, the image of the invisible God—reconciled us to Himself through His death. That’s a place we can keep coming back to again and again.
Brothers, may Christ, Lord of all, bless and keep you. May your hearts and minds be daily made new, strengthened in the deep well of love that pours forth from our God. And, may you be in awe of the deep mysteries, finding them not a place of confusion but of faith and encouragement.
written by Father Aaron Wright