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Westminster Abbey in London is one of the few places in the world that doesn't disappoint. The main part of Westminster is the cathedral: an enormous, basilica-style monastery of Gothic architecture that leaves one with a breathtaking vision of the height and depth of, if not God, at least of the worshipers' concept of God.

With the sheer amount of space between the floor and soaring vaults, from the back of the nave to the altar, as well as the complicated artistry on every wall and window, you find yourself awed by everything that speaks of the unimaginable greatness of God. You have a peculiar sense that God is very present and yet not altogether accessible. This is not an unpleasant experience; on the contrary, you realize that your idea of God has probably been domesticated and confined.

We might refer to such an experience as mystical, although the term is commonly associated in the Western mind with something that is highly subjective and meant for only the few. This is, however, a stunted definition. In ancient Christian theology, mystical refers to the wonder of the Christian story, the fulfilling of the Father's plan of redemption in Christ, which Paul refers to as the "mystery" (1 Tim. 3:16).Mystical also applied to a number of central elements of our worship of God.

Ambrose of Milan, the 4th-century bishop, declared that our very faith "is the mystery of the Trinity," as is the Lord's Supper and our Lord's baptism, which is our own baptism. John Cassian taught that Scripture too contains the mystery in the form of words, which describe the works of God that are disclosed to human minds only by grace. Because God himself is mystery, we should expect to find throughout the divine text depths and hidden realities that ...

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hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2009

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