Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Advent Reflection: O Magnum Mysterium

by Deacon Patrick Gilbreath


Recently, I came across a piece of sacred music that has proven to be a beautiful tribute and fitting reminder of the themes of the Advent season in which we now find ourselves and in the Christmas season to come.

"O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum jacentem in praesepio. O beata Virgo, cuius viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Jesum Christum. Alleluia."

For those non-Latin scholars like myself, here is an English translation of O Magnum Mysterium.  "O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that beasts should see the new-born Lord lying in a manger.  O blessed virgin, whose body was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia."  I would encourage a listen for the full effect of the beautiful music, and I especially recommend the version written by Morten Lauridsen by the Kings College Choir.  Go ahead, find it on the youtube and listen.  I'll wait.

The line that strikes me is the beginning.  "O great mystery."  What a great mystery that we have given to us in the season of Advent as we contemplate and await the nativity of Jesus Christ.  "What is so mysterious about a little baby?"  I find that the mystery of Advent, perhaps the mystery of the whole Christian life, is a mystery not of the Incarnation itself, but a mystery in the way that we accept and let the great sacrament into our lives.

How often do we think that we have everything that we need?  How often do we selfishly make decisions because we believe that we know God's plan for our lives?  The great mystery of the Christian life is being able to let go of our pre-conceived of our very self and trust tht the tiny baby has a plan for our lives which will unfold in ways that we cannot even imagine.  The great mystery of the Christian life is experienced in our interactions with beauty, truth, and goodness.  As we progress through Advent, may we have a renewed encounter with the great mystery of Jesus Christ and hope that we may experience this mystery in joyfully unexpected ways.

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.