Back in the day, I loved off-shore sailing. There was something adventurous and old-school about sailing out-of-sight of land with only a sextant, stars, a nautical almanac, a clear night to see the North Star, a navigation chart or two to guide you – and you were good to go. This was before the days of GPS, during the days of LORAN-C; but then it was the rare boat that had such exotic gear. Course, heading, speed, dead reckoning, and you were on your own.
Such navigation was not a precise science, you could get close (very close on some nights) but in the end the nav charts and lights on shore helped you to confirm your location. There was always something wonderful about a navigation buoy, a lighthouse beacon, especially the ones that marked safe harbor, home, a place to drop anchor and be at rest. On a clear night, it is remarkable how far those lights shine into the darkness of your voyage.
On Friday, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family. The gospel was the story of Joseph taking his family from Bethlehem to the safety of Egypt; becoming refugee because of the murderous machinations of King Herod the Great who meant to slaughter the child. The Holy Family set out in the dead of night – I always wondered if they were guided south by the same star that led the Magi to them.
There in Egypt, Joseph and Mary took on the great and daunting role of being parents, being that North Star for their son, Jesus. Teaching the child, by word and example, this is what it means to be human. This is what it means to pledge covenant love of marriage to one another. This is compassion, humility, gentleness, and all the virtues. This is what it means to believe all things, hope all things, bear all things, and endure all things. I suspect that singular light of the Holy Family shone brightly into the world of the 1st century near east.
Where Friday’s gospel focuses on Joseph, today it is Mary whose light shines brightly throughout the life of Jesus. I love the verse in today’s gospel where it simply says, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” That one night, when the family was adrift among the travelers to Bethlehem – no clear heading, no clear course. And yet the simple word from the shepherds passing on the message of the angels – and indeed, this child was to be Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” That simple message became a brilliant point of light upon which she reflected, a light that became the guiding star.
When the way became uncertain, that simple light, that guiding star helped to remind her that she was theotokos, literally, the “God bearer.” She was the one trusted to bridge heaven and earth by her “Yes,” by her dedication, and by her constancy – as constant as that North Star. Mary was the star that guided the way to the child Jesus, maternally leading him to grow in love of God and family. She was that constant North Star ever-present in his life even throughout the Passion, Death, and Resurrection –a sign of faith and perseverance. Solid. Unfailing.
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” As her life’s journey continued, the list of all that comprises “all these things” grew along with the Christ child. Think of all the “things” of Jesus’ life for which Mary was witness:
I just described the rosary, a meditation on the life of Christ through the eyes of Mary – Christ: the singular North Star of our faith.
It is 2017, a new year, a new journey, a new voyage.
Once never really gets to remain in safe harbor. There is something about this Christian life that calls us to set sail and head to open waters. The question is what will be in your “nav kit?” Maybe your sea bag will have all manner of new gear, or maybe it will be simple. It seems to me that one faith equivalent of the basic charts, stars, and sextant, is the rosary. It is unassuming, fits in a pocket or a purse, comes in all colors, makes, and models – but no matter its appearance, it points you to the brightest of lights for you to hold the life of Christ close, reflecting on them in your heart.
The Light of Christ marks the way to home, safe harbor, a place to drop anchor and be at rest. You just need the navigation tools to show you the way.
May 2017 bring you fair winds and following seas.
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!