Jan 4, 2020

Follow that Star

At the center of the Lord’s Prayer, in the “Our Father” as we commonly call it, one line connects everything - everything that exists. That one line is “on earth as it is in heaven”.

Two thousand years ago, when Jesus was born and before he grew up to teach us the words of this prayer, the ancient people from the East understood this. Whatever happens in the heavens is reflected on the earth - “on earth as it is in heaven.” During a time when there was no city lights, air pollution, nighttime flights or communication satellites, they looked into the night sky with wonder and amazement, tracing invisible lines between stars, linking them together into patterns and shapes they could recognize as points of reference. 

On the other side of the heavens, today an astronaut looking down upon the darkness of the earth sees all our artificial light clustered around towns and cities. From the space shuttle looking down upon the earth at night, you can likewise identify countries, capitals, coastlines and oceans by the glowing light we emit by our metropolitan cities and vast networks of roads and highways. But we do not see the light “on earth as it is in heaven”. 

When the ancient civilizations looked out from the darkness of the earth, they beheld all of God’s creation in all its purity and harmony, its order and predictability, its beauty and its majesty. And when they noticed something different, an anomaly, something that wasn’t there before, this new point of reference, they knew that this new light in heaven would reflect a new point of reference on the earth. A new light shone out from heaven for the whole world to see. A new reference point for all humanity would exist at a particular point, at a particular place, at a particular time on earth as it was communicated by heaven. 

The Magi, the “three wise men”, or the “three kings from the orient”, as we now call them, only after they allowed an event in heaven to communicate to them, did they turn their attention to an event that was likewise occurring on the earth. By triangulating the heavens and the earth to the Holy Scriptures of the Chosen People, they are eventually able to make their way to Bethlehem and worship God enfleshed as a baby, as they had worshiped God clothed in the immensity of the cosmos. 

Although there are countless meditations we can make on the event we hear spoken to us through today’s gospel, (I have listed ten of them on the previous blog entry), based on these present reflections, what can we take away today in the light of this Christmas Mass of the Epiphany?

The starting point of any reflection on how God communicates to us as the wise men have shown us, begins by taking our gaze away from the artificial light produced by our own inventions, be it as grand as New York at night or the light emitted from the screen of our cell phones or computers. Look out beyond the horizon of the earth towards the heavens, to the immensity of God’s entire creation. Rather than trying to capture beauty through a lense to be uploaded to an artificial cloud and held together by a network of electronic signals, stop regularly, straighten your neck and look up, see and take in through the gift of your natural senses, all the natural wonders of the world and all creation.

Reflect on what God is saying, communicating to us through his language of light and darkness, of shapes and patterns, of movement and sounds, what is visible and what is invisible to us. 

Then bring it all together into what we do here and now in this sacred place, the light of candles, the clouds of incense, the pattern of movements, the listening of harmonies, the shapes of images, the color of language, the tenderness of touch, the hint of aromas. 

This is not trying to make sense of chaos. There is no mixed signals here. In the same way as we have heard in the gospel “And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was”. Everything in creation leads us to this actual place of reference where God is to be found. Through the sacrament of the Eucharist His dwelling place is here among us on earth as he is in heaven. 

May our sacramental encounter with Christ, give glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.

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