Crack open the history books and you will find that virtually every culture in world history has been fascinated by the stars. Every culture has looked up into the night sky, gazing into the darkness, and studying the movements of the heavenly bodies. There’s something about stars, isn’t there? Perhaps it has happened to you, in a dark, quiet night: you looked up at the stars in awe and wonder, and felt that you were very small, just another peg in the vastness of space. It is no mistake that the word, ‘desire,’ comes from the Latin word for ‘star.’ To desire is, quite literally, to hitch your heart on a star.
We have stars, objects of our desire, all around us. There are society stars, celebrities, whom we admire for their looks or emotional engagement. There are sports stars, men and women who achieve extraordinary physical feats. There are business stars and political ones. There are stars that shine in all the arenas of human accomplishment, be it beauty, health, intelligence, or courage. Stars are all around us. We also have our own stars, our own desires for our life. These are the good and noble things that we would like to have, accomplish, or incorporate into our lives: The desire for good health, for family unity, for meaningful relationships, and financial stability; even, the desire for a deeper relationship with God; the desire, in short, for true happiness. Now these stars, these desires, are all good. Very good! But we have to keep in mind that, like the star of the Gospel, they themselves are not the object we long for; they point to something greater.
Let’s look at the Wise Men story. These men were Babylonian or Persian priests or astronomers. They constantly studied the stars, and one day they saw something peculiar in one of them. When this happened, they didn’t just stand there, amazed, saying, “Look at that! Look at this phenomenon. Look at that star shining in an extraordinarily bright way, what a strange behavior.” No, they started a journey. They hinged their hearts not just on a star, but on whom it pointed to. It was this desire that sparked their journey, a seeking.
That famous phrase of Augustine, best reflects it.
You have made us, O Lord, for yourself. And our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.
It is this restlessness of our hearts, seeking to be quenched, that makes us seek and desire those stars around us. There is a well known phrase that theologians use to express this restlessness, this “not enough-ness,” «dei desiderium in corde hominis est scriptum», which means,
The desire for God is written in the heart of Man.
It is this desire for God, inscribed in our very hearts that makes us seek, thirst, and yearn for something deeper than money, success, fame, health, something to which these stars point. C.S. Lewis said it in the following words,
The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located, will betray us if we trust to them. It was not in them, it only came through them. And what came through them was longing. These things, beauty, the memory of our own past, are good images of what we really desire. But if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols. Breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself. They are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.
Our stars point to Some-One, Someone who is the true object of all our desires. A couple of days ago, a woman came up to me and said,
– Father, do you remember when you gave that homily on God “hiding” behind our relationships, behind the glass of wine?
– Sure—I responded—Why?
– Well, I think my husband didn’t take it in the way you intended it, she said.
– Oh my… What happened?
– Well, now he says, ‘You know, I didn’t find Him in the first two glasses of wine. Let me see if God is in the third glass!’
The presence of the Father is hiding. His infinite Beauty is hidden behind a radiant sunrise, his tenderness behind the freshness of a rose; his compassion is hidden even behind our suffering, and our enemies. God hides behind the ‘stars’ of our lives. But he also hides in the journey itself; in the Seeker, God seeks us. It is this seeking us, that is the great mystery we celebrate in Christmas, that he ‘lowered’ Himself to our human state. Just like we lower ourselves to speak to children, to have the same eye contact level. Perhaps we even raise the pitch of our voice in order to not sound threatening. God ‘descended’ to our level (theologians call this, ‘The Divine Condescension’). He spoke our language. He continues to seek us, while hiding, in another star, in the Holy Eucharist. See? God desires us infinitely more than we could ever desire Him. God yearns for that communion, that desire for us to be one with Him. Incidentally, the above Latin phrase could also be translated as “God’s desire is written in the heart of Man.”
I don’t know if I ever told you about the first inklings of my vocation. It was in early high school, when when my friends and I would get excited for Friday night, with all the parties and social activities it offered. We would make our way through the week, but all the time our minds would be on Friday! After a while, I started to get bored. It was fun at the beginning, but eventually a sense of dissatisfaction started growing in my heart. I remember standing at a party, looking around and asking myself, “Really? Is this it? The same people dancing to the same music, talking about the same other people, and what they say or don’t say, what they wear or don’t wear. This is it?” I later came to realize that this dissatisfaction in my life was God speaking to me. And it was through that dissatisfaction—that longing—that I started to seek a stronger relationship with the Father, through Jesus.
I invite you to make the following prayer of St. Anselm’s your own, that in your desire for God, in your journey towards him, you may be guided to discover him.
Teach me, O Lord, to seek you and reveal yourself to me as I seek, because, I can neither seek you if you do not teach me how, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in desiring you. Let me desire you in seeking you. Let me find you in loving you. And let me love you in finding you.
St. Matthew, speaking about how the Magi, the Wise Men, were following the signs, the stars, points out two more signs that were revealed to them to discover the King of the Jews. The Gospel says, “They saw the child with Mary, his mother” (Mt 2:11). The Wise Men discovered in these two, very human signs the presence of God—and they adored Him. It is this wisdom that earned them the title of Wise Men. May we ask Mary to guide the stars of our life so that we find the One whom we truly desire.
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