The Night Sky of Advent
This is the week of the Geminid meteorite shower, the most spectacular of the year. If the sky is clear on Sunday night two meteorites a minute may be seen streaking across the sky. Psalm 8 prays, ‘When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you set in place – What is man that you should be mindful of him…you have made him little less than the angels’.
Isaias is moved by stars too, ’Lift up your eyes and see who has created these [stars]: He leads out their army and numbers them. By his great might and the power of his strength not one of them is missing!’
Isaias and Israel looked up at the stars from their places of exile; Juan Diego, whose feast we celebrate today, appreciated the creation that surrounded the Aztec peoples; and we share the awesome wonder for the Creator of the starry night. But we also share with them the shadows of Advent. We wait in darkness, we journey at night, walking not by light but in faith.
The God who calls the stars by name, has chosen a people who knows God’s love as the faithful and tender love of a mother. We have hope as we look into the shadows of Advent. But the Aztec people, who suffered the destruction of their world, the disease and defeat brought by their conquerors, did not know the love story of Israel, nor did the of the missionaries capture their hearts. They knew God through creation. But in the day of Juan Diego the night sky of December was not hope and peace. If they saw the meteorites of Gemini they were fiery omens of destruction.
Our night journey this year is surrounded by unrest, shared convictions and values are questioned. We walk in Covid-Time. The shadows of Advent are the places in our lives and our shared world that await the light of our coming redeemer.
Can a shooting star be a sign of hope? If Juan Diego can gather a tilma full of roses in winter and never tire of telling everyone about the beautiful, gentle dark skinned woman who smiled as she called him ‘her little Juan’….If the wind made by the wings of a butterfly can affect a star, can we hold the suffering of our present moment before the Creator of the stars and pray today’s Scriptures in darkness?
The Lord does not grow weary. He gives strength to the fainting, for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger an fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and to grow faint.
Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.