|25 Nov 2022|
As a child my mum would sing to us:
Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
Today is the final day for contributions to our Vinnies’ Christmas hampers. As I have purchased goods this year, I have held in my heart an imaginary family, mum and two kids, living in a car in the Hornsby area, gazing upon the stars as the windows fog up with condensation, wondering what they might be wishing for.
This evening the College marks the beginning of the Advent season with Starlight, a concert of beautiful music to lift our hearts as we approach the blessed (and busy!) days of Christmas. If you are lucky enough to attend, you will hear the much-loved refrains: ‘O holy night, the stars are brightly shining …’ and ‘star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright …’. Unlike our northern neighbours, our December nights are marked by the Southern Cross and long summer stretches of companionship and conviviality.
Stars illuminate, comfort, give direction and twinkle. In some ancient cultures it was believed that stars were pinpricks in the firmament of the heavens through which the Divine shone. We know that St Ignatius spent time every evening on his balcony, consoled by stars, reviewing his day and seeking help from his loving God. We can imagine Mother Gonzaga Barry and her early companions befriending the mine-pocked landscape of Ballarat and the new southern stars, making a new home in a foreign land.
Stars are born and they die, hence they are a very potent symbol at this tired end of the school year and the beginning of a new liturgical year. The Christmas star shines light on the essence of who we are as Christians: a young woman who trusted God and said YES to uncertainty and fear; wise leaders from different cultures sharing their resources, gifts and wisdom; animals who seemed to get the message; people from urban and rural contexts meeting together in a simple barn in an occupied land; and, above all, a child whom we know as God, born in a feed-box to sustain us with faith, hope and love, with the very life and love of the Divine. Michael Leunig’s poem, Christmas, captures the focus of this Christmas star:
I see a twinkle in your eye
So this shall be my Christmas star
And I will travel to your heart
The manger where the real things are
And I will find a mother there
Who holds you gently to her breast
A father to protect your peace
And by these things you shall be blessed
And you will always be reborn
And I will always see the star
And make the journey to your heart
The manger where the real things are
At Loreto Normanhurst these days are filled with opportunities to shine a light on the 2022 school year through the eyes and heart of God, discerning ‘where the real things are’. In preparation for today’s Year 6 Liturgy, students pondered the Gospel to be used in the liturgy and generated points for a shared reflection on how Jesus brings light to our world, how Year 6 bring light to our community and beyond and brainstormed a plethora of people who offer them the ‘starlight’ of encouragement, support, challenge, care and love: farmers and friends, police and parents, staff and siblings, coaches and counsellors. It is also highly significant that all staff are currently involved in reflective conversations, shining light on the blessings and challenges of the past year. This collaborative conversation, this ‘journey to the heart’, is at the core of the vocation of those involved in the Ignatian enterprise of finding God in all things. Even our College Board will spend time early next week, reflecting on the highlights and challenges of the school year drawing to a bright end. We use spiritual tools, such as our daily examen, reflective review of the week/term/year, personal prayer, communal liturgy, and our upcoming Christmas celebrations to ask God to brighten the star before us, guiding us, prompting us … asking God, above all, to be with us.
This evening’s Christmas concert will contain meditative moments of poems relating to ‘Starlight’. As you place the star on your Christmas tree, plan your own starlit celebration, search the stars for meaning or for signs of loved ones who have gone before us, maybe these words from Marina Wiederkehr might stay with you:
I hope a star comes out for you today,
a new one that you’ve never seen before.
I hope it’s bright and bold,
a prophetic star,
piercing your darkness
and helping you to see new things
you really need to see.
May you, and those you love, be blessed with sight, insight and starlight in the month ahead. Let us pray for one another as we gaze upon the stars, leading us ‘to the manger where the real things are’.
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