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Bonhoeffer on the Mystery of Love

Dec 13, 2014 | 2 Comments

By Candice Gage

This Advent season I’m reading God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas. Compiled from various works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this small devotional has been a means of light and peace for me in the bustle of seminary finals and holiday festivities. This week, the reflections focus on mystery. One such mystery is love.

The mystery remains mystery. It withdraws from our grasp. Mystery, however, does not mean simply not knowing something.

The greatest mystery is not the most distant star; on the contrary, the closer something comes to us and the better we know it, then the more mysterious it becomes for us. The greatest mystery to us is not the most distant person, but the one next to us. The mystery of other people is not reduced by getting to know more and more about them. Rather, in their closeness they become more and more mysterious. And the final depth of all mystery is when two people come so close to each other that they love each other. Nowhere in the world does one feel the might of the mysterious and its wonder as strongly as here. When two people know everything about each other, the mystery of the love between them becomes infinitely great. And only in this love do they understand each other, know everything about each other, know each other completely. And yet, the more they love each other and know about each other in love, the more deeply they know the mystery of their love. Thus, knowledge about each other does not remove the mystery, but rather makes it more profound. The very fact that the other person is so near to me is the greatest mystery. (20-21)

As we walk through singleness and reach for marriage, it can be easy to reduce love to a set of compatible traits or a possession to attain. This Advent season, may we remember that, ultimately, love is a mystery.

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