He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world (Jn 1:8-9).
The cold keeps many from wondering at a January night sky where every star, a brilliant gem in the crisp air, gleams forth resplendent from the dark heavens. Even in the city, on a cloudless night, these jewels shine resolute despite the disaffection of the dim urban glow.
In the mountains, though, the profound darkness of the sleeping earth allows us a glimpse at deeper splendor. There, on a moonless night, without the perpetually twilit city around, the sky shines with such refulgence that even the space between the stars seems kindled with hidden light.
In fact, this wonder is no mere illusion. Among the distinct points of light lie myriads of unseen stars which account for much of the light which reaches us poor mortals below. Sometimes I like to think about how we may never see distinctly the star whose light made it just bright enough to keep our feet from stumbling.
Saint Paul urges us as he urged the Philippians to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world” (Phil 2:15). Of course, any light we shine forth is not our own, but a borrowed light given freely. With the very call to the greatness of “starhood” comes the power to live as stars in the world. The Light of Christ gives us the “power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12), to shine like Him, to become by adoption what he is by nature: divine.
He calls us to sidereal magnificence, as our souls magnify not ourselves, but the Lord by whose light we shine. Therefore, we must not set our sights on anything less than sitting in the heavens, ablaze with the light of grace and glory, abiding among the saints for all eternity.
It is this greatness and nothing short of it for which God made us and to which he calls us. To lose sight of such an exalted prize or to settle for less is to fall short of the virtue of magnanimity, the virtue by which we strive rightly for the highest things. Incidentally, our sins can often be reduced to simply this: keeping our horizons small and merely human. Healing, in part, consists in setting our sights again on heaven and our eternal destiny.
Such glory, possible only by grace, must be the goal placed ever before our eyes. Magnanimity cannot, however, forget its cousin humility. Now, humility does not aim for less than the light of glory; rather, humility contents in being one of the unseen stars, lost in the brilliance of the night sky, but still nothing less than a star.
Such is the holiness of the millions of unsung holy husbands and wives, baptized infants and children, mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, priests, and nuns whose deeds of holiness are not the stuff of the annals of history and legends, but whose prayers still illuminate the Church and the world. These holy souls knew no renown on earth and know no earthly praise now that they dwell in heaven; stars nonetheless, they still shine forth their borrowed light to the fulness of their capacity,
Though a select few of us, by God’s grace, might be recognized for our holiness in the eyes of men, most are called to join the rank of holy souls loved and known by God alone. And yet our humble light, dwarfed by the majesty of the great saints, still illuminates the heavens, and we must let this light shine as bright as we can according to the brightness of the light God gave us.
Not until the consummation of all things will we know whose unknown light has illuminated our path to heaven, or whose path the light of our little prayers might might have made clear. So let us shine forth courageously and tirelessly with the grace that Christ won for us, until the Daystar rises and all is made manifest.
Photo by Vincent Guth