Spring 2004

The Mystery of the Everyday

Peter Henrici

“The thirty hidden years . . . may be understood as a mysterium of the whole history of the world . . . as a ‘sacrament’ that sanctifies and gives meaning to our age and to every age.”

If we follow the traditional chronology, Jesus spent thirty of his thirty-three years with his family, and dedicated only three years to his mission as Messiah. He went about Galilee and Judea, proclaimed the coming of the reign of God, and gathered disciples for only three years. The biblical exegetes claim that it was an even shorter period. Ten to one: we might be able to understand this lopsided proportion in the case of a person who received his calling late in life, and then died relatively young—but how are we to understand such disproportionality in the Son of God? The only Gospel episode from the “hidden” years of Jesus raises precisely this question: the twelve-year-old Jesus knows that he is the Son of God; he knows that he has a mission that obliges him to be “in what belongs to his Father”; and yet, he returns with his parents to Nazareth “and was obedient to them.”
The thirty-year waiting period was thus neither a mere coincidence nor a disposition of fate; rather, Jesus chose it consciously. The hidden years, too, belong to his revelation; they, too, are a mysterium, a revelation of God’s being in veiled form. What, then, does this mystery reveal?

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