"If you understood, what you understood was not God." ~ St. Augustine
I've used this quote by St. Augustine quite a bit. I reflect on it during those moments in life when one is tempted to conclude that God is absent or that He doesn't care. Only in retrospect can the value of those desolate moments be truly appreciated as opportunities to expand your faith.
I'm guilty of this: I get "comfortable" with my faith and with my idea of God. There is the temptation to conclude that while somethings remain mysterious, for the most part, we have this life and the things that happen in the next life figured out to some extent. You die. You are judged by Christ. Heaven, hell, or purgatory. The end. Personally, I think this simplicity undermines a Mystery that is both hidden and beyond comprehension. Sometimes I hear a good-intentioned individual describe to me almost in step-by-step sequence of what happens to the soul as it enters into eternity.
Know this, regardless of how well versed you are in Church teachings, theology, Christology, mysticism, and the lives of the saints, the only thing we can say with certainty is that God is both infinite justice and infinite mercy. No one who has died absolutely and irrevocably has come back to life to give an account of what the whole experience was like. God is both infinite justice and infinite mercy. Those two qualities are not opposites. On the other hand, it's a mistake to conclude that because God is infinite justice, that in the word "justice" is implied a condemnation to hell. I think hell is tragically the place or word people think of when we speak of God's justice, when justice could mean mercy as well.
I know it sounds silly to some of you, but it's stuff like the above piece (arguably the greatest sacred composition of all time) that energizes me and awakens my senses to the Mystery the Catholic faith is imbued with. I often wonder what Allegri's Miserere sounds like to my non-Catholic blog visitors. Archaic? Anachronistic? Baroque crap? Clearly, everybody has his or her likes and dislikes, and some just miss the point altogether.