Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears His glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance. (NAB, Isaiah 60:1-3)
Do you ever have those times when you just don’t get the point? Or know someone who just doesn’t seem to have a clue? Decisions are made that seem to lead nowhere. Or no matter how hard you try to wrap your brain around a concept, answers do not surface quickly. One could say that such is the story of my own life, trying to find clarity in the midst of my darkness.
Travelling in darkness, one has to go very slowly. It is easy to get lost or to trip over anything that might come into one’s pathway, especially if you have pets or small kids. This time of year it is very difficult to drive in evening rush hour traffic in downtown Chicago as it gets dark at 4:30 pm. Pedestrians fill the streets more often than not dressed in dark colors. And when trying to cross an intersection or make a turn, inevitably someone will be in the middle of road. One has to really apply a careful eye. Yet there are limitations to my ability to see. Headlights can only cast its rays just so far. And if the valet parking attendant switches my headlights from “auto” to “off” with my noticing, I might actually end up driving for a few days without even my low beams.
Life is like driving down dark city streets (and sometimes forgetting to turn on the headlights!). The Existential approach to psychology embraces the idea that all persons have an inherent need to find meaning in their lives. Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor and theorist, proposed “man’s search for meaning” can be found in the object of his or her beloved:
The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, Part One, “Experiences in a Concentration Camp”, Viktor Frankl, Pocket Books, pp. 56-57)
It boils down to what star we choose to follow and where that star leads us!
This year on Sunday January 8 the Catholic Church observes the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord which basically focuses on the journey of the Magi who followed the star to Bethlehem in search of Jesus. An “epiphany” is a revelation of God. It comes from Greek meaning “to reveal.” It can simply be stated as that moment when the lights are all turned on and there is clarity. Another term for this feast is the Theophany or Three Kings Day.
Pope Benedict XVI in his Epiphany homily on January 6, 2008 stated: “The arrival in Bethlehem of the Magi from the East to adore the newborn Messiah is a sign of the manifestation of the universal King to the peoples and to all who seek the truth.”
The Magi seeking God is much like our own hearts seeking for the Beloved. Our hearts are on a sacred quest to find God who is the author of light. We too can follow the star to Bethlehem, which means the “house of bread.”
Prayer from Mass of St. Pius V for the Epiphany of Our Lord: “O God, Who by the guidance of a star didst this day reveal Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we, who know Thee now by faith, may be so led as to behold with our eyes the beauty of Thy majesty. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.”