Saturday, July 30, 2016

Be a star in the night sky

I have been reading from Origen's homilies on Genesis, and I was impressed by his allegorical interpretation of the creation story in the opening chapter of the bible. Each element of the creation is given a moral significance and an allegorical application to the moral life, something which resonates with me deeply.

Here I wish to quote his allegorical interpretation of the creation of the stars, after he had said that the sun is Christ and the moon, which draws its light from the sun to illumine the night, is the Church which draws light from Christ to illumine those lost in the night of ignorance. As for the stars, he says the following:
Just as the sun and the moon were indicated as great lights in the firmament of heaven, so also in us Christ and the Church. But because God also placed stars in the firmament, let us see which are the stars within us, that is, in the heavens of our heart. 
Moses is a star within us, glimmering and illumining us through his deeds. Likewise Abraham is a star, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and David, and Daniel, and all those about whom Holy Scripture has given the testimony that they pleased God. For just as each star differs in glory from another [cf. 1 Cor 15:41], so also each of the saints gives off his light in us according to its measure (Hom. in Gen. I, 7). 
I recall the whiskey priest's final words from Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory: all that really counts is to have been a saint. In context, that is the miserable retrospective judgment of a person whose life was a complete moral failure. To me, it was very powerful to read and echoes within my own heart and mind. Nothing matters ultimately except to have been a saint while you were in the body; a person can only bring her character with her before God after the death, everything else must be left behind.

And if we will be watchful over ourselves, if we keep ourselves by God's help from the sins which so easily tie us up and bind us to a meaningless life, then we will be true stars in God's sky. Like the prophet Daniel says: Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Dan 12:3). For any person who is a lover of beauty, this image has to be impressive. In fact, the imperative and invitation of God to become saints is a call to become beautiful like the stars in the night sky, by God's help to assume the beauty of Sirius or Betelguese or Polaris, each of us with a unique charm and place. God will not tolerate us to be ugly as regards our character; he wants us to be beautiful.

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