Theology & Spirituality

The Fog of Holy Mystery

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “divine mystery”or “holy mystery”? Desert mystics wandering in flowing robes? Gilded saints on chapel ceilings? Clouds of incense wafting upwards in a beam of light? I confess, I have never had even a loose grasp on the mystery of the divine. My ideas were—at best—shadows in my head, nothing substantial enough to imagine even vague images.


Fog and roiling clouds hang low today, giving me the quiet closeness to ponder the divine unknown. I begin to understand that holy mysteries are something akin to the fog filling up the bowl of the valley, pouring in over the lip of the foothills. The veil of mist hides familiar mesas and canyons. I know something of what is behind the veil from seeing the low hills on clear days. Perhaps holy mysteries are something like that, where most days all I see through the fog are blunted edges and shapes fading into grey. Then, for a moment, the clouds swirl up and I can see more clearly what is really there, only to be enveloped again the next minute. Knowing God is like that, moments of clearly seeing into the fog, perceiving the substance further in, then the shade descending again.


In other ways, I know the mystery of the divine like a solitary bird flying off into the mist, its lone “caw!” echoing back my heart’s cry. Winging its way along, it is swallowed by the depths and layers of cloud. I wonder if it will find a flock to join, or a place to rest its weary wings. So too, I muse whether I will be able to rest my fainting soul, or find a flock with whom I fit. Or will I just fly into the grey and be lost? Is there anything real beyond what I can see? In the “whirling fog” moments I believe there is, because I see the shapes become solid. Yet even when the mist overshadows the mountains, I know by beauty and by sense that there is more. More than the glimpses. Things more real than I can see or touch. I don’t know how I know, but I do. Ah! There it is, the divine mystery: beauty moves us toward the reality that is so real we can only see shadows of it now. One day we shall see it—see Him—face to face.


For a moment the slow-pouring fog shifts and I know that when I want to enter into beauty itself—when I want to be the sunset, or the symphony swelling, or the seagull on the wing—those aching moments are when the Divine pierces through to my heart, like a shaft of sunlight through a storm cloud. I still cannot see what is to come, but I know there is a sun, there are solid things beyond the lovely mist.


The beauty of this world is like that dark layer upon layer of fog and storm clouds, melting the edges of evening into night. But the beauty of the new heavens, the beauty of this world redeemed, will be realised in leaf edges—clear against a blue sky, of dappling shade, of falling leaves and sifting snow, of a firwood forest, and rocks upon rocks to climb and feel and see. It will be more, different, deeper. Beauty so real that it penetrates us, like the grass in The Great Divorce pierces through the feet of the shadow people. It will be like a keen wind in our lungs. We will be wonderstruck, as if seeing silver stars for the very first time. It will be layer upon layer of real; things only previously hinted at behind the fog in this yet-to-be-renewed world. Things once dim will become crisp and clear. Then we will see with new eyes the Divine Mystery, fleshed out and walking among us.


Johanna Byrkett

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna (Jody) Byrkett enjoys hiking various types of terrain, foggy mornings and steaming mugs of tea, reading classic literature and theological essays, studying words and their origins, and practising the art of hospitality. (She also has the singularly annoying habit of spelling things 'Britishly'.)

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