Someone said to me over Christmas, “I like the new cross, Father.” He was referring to our star. I like that our star was mistaken for a cross, because they both point to the same Person. I’ve been enjoying its presence in our Church. It’s hard to ignore. We know our church so well. We immediately notice any change in it, however small. To think of all the hours we’ve spent here, gazing up and around, wondering at the origin, significance, and purpose of its beautiful details. We know and love St Dominic’s like the back of our hand.
Seeing our star, contemplating its significance, we’re gathering a sense of what the wise men felt when they saw the first star of Bethlehem. That star too was hard to ignore. They’d spent many hours of long, clear nights examining the stars and planets, pondering the meaning of their movements in the heavens. For each celestial object, they’d adopted both a corresponding earthly position and a symbolic meaning – a bit like we do with the Southern Cross; we think it’s ours – but they did it to a great degree, a spiritual degree.
Conjunctions of planets in various constellations told our wise men that a great king had been born in Israel. The incongruity struck them. Great kings aren’t born: they emerge from battle; they arise in their good government through adult life. If there is a baby in Israel who is born a great king, then he deserves homage and gifts even more than one’s own king does.
The star filled the wise men with delight. They knew what it meant. But we can be at a disadvantage, because our stars do not thus speak of Christ. Sure, they speak in a general way about their creator, but they’re no more directive towards Christ than is an ancient tree or a great lake. So, I have two thoughts to share with you.
We come to Christ and his delights through the people who went to the stable. We imitate them at their best: the wise men with their worship and gifts, the shepherds bringing their livelihood, angels with their song, and Mary and Joseph in their faith, hope, and love for her Son. We certainly don’t resort to astrology or practices of the so-called new age. Giant balls of flaming gas have no impact on our daily life, except insofar as they make us wonder at their Maker and so lead us to him.
The other thought is that others who don’t know Christ have you. Christ comes to us in Holy Communion: in this way, we make ourselves a manger for Christ, so that he will make us like stars to show him to others. When we’re with people who don’t know Christ, we have every reason for Christ’s sake and theirs to be joyful and peaceful: Christ makes us wiser than the wise men; he is the satisfaction of the shepherds’ hopes. Our joy and peacefulness can give our neighbours every reason to wonder, as if they’re looking at the star itself, at who this is all about.
God has given us something we need but cannot ourselves generate: a Saviour, known by ancient prophecy and novel lights in the night sky. Christ our Saviour saves us by illuminating those who behold him. He makes us see the world as he sees it, that is, redeemable, by taking our sins away and supplying us with grace to be good.
May we be wise enough to fall to our knees before him.
Fr Paul Rowse, OP