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Pursue the Stars


“Opta ardua pennis astra sequi”


“Desire to pursue on wings the high stars.”


A great Roman poet wrote this line, forever expressing the prick in our conscience. Pursue the stars. Life is summed up by this calling. We will never be content on earth because it burns in our hearts. We were made to pursue the stars. Christmas starts the year with the same message. Let every breathe and action be an attempt to reach up: desire to pursue on wings the high stars.


“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” doing what? “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-12).


“God has appeared to us.”


The star shown above the stable to reveal that a light much brighter than all the stars had been born. The light of lights cooed in a manger. God had become man, to forever bridge the gulf between humanity and divinity.


“God has appeared to us.”


Will we ever understand this? Can we possibly fathom the implications that God has appeared? The pagans were nearly right to worship the stars, for they recognized in them something high and beautiful. But Christmas comes and what happens? Those lofty stars came down to worship something even higher. All the splendor in the universe bows down to earth, because earth has welcomed the maker of the universe.


Socrates explained that philosophy was born when men first started looking to the stars. They looked up, above society, above industry, above the earth, and longed for something higher. They were so awestruck by the stars’ twinkling at night, they abandoned everything to listen and wonder. How much more should we listen and wonder at Christmas time, at the birth of our Savior?


“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”


God has appeared, for what? He has appeared to bring salvation. Salvation from what? Salvation from ungodliness, from passions, and every trace of wickedness in our hearts. God has appeared with a mission for us, to renounce evil and pursue holiness. In our epistle today, St. Paul begins with a lofty vision, and immediately brings it down to earth in practical advice. How do we pursue the stars? We pursue them in little things — in daily habits and spiritual exercise, aspiring “to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.”


It is tiring work and disappointing. Advent and Lent always humble us. If we set our goals high enough, we will quickly fall short of them. Times of fasting and penitence remind us how weak we are. I began writing this sermon a little depressed earlier this week. I started out Advent with a great number of goals. I fell short of many of them. First, my own will proved weaker than I hoped. My passions and desires are stronger than I realized before. Second, my body got in the way — “brother ass” — to quote the venerable St. Francis. When head colds, soar throats, and flus come around, our plans and schedules get thrown out the back the door.


We are weak. How can we pursue the stars in this body and this world?


St. Paul answers this in his next line:


“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age”…how? “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-12).


Waiting for our blessed hope — this is the ticket.


“προσδεχόμενοι τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα.”


Prosdexomenoi implies a constant, burning waiting. It is the kind of happy waiting that a fiancé feels, waiting for the wedding day. King David describes this on an existential level: “My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:6). St. Paul writes to the Colossians: “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Prosdexomenoi sums up the real Christian life. We are waiting, expecting, hungering for Christ’s return in everything.


Prosdexomenoi epitomizes precisely how we are supposed to feast through the twelve days of Christmas and in all the holy days of the year ahead. Every delicious meal is delicious because it is not quite perfect. A dish is delightful because it reminds us of something else. It reminds of the perfect meal we hope to eat at the heavenly banquet. Every beautiful melody touches our hearts and wounds us — a holy wound. A good song always leaves you empty. You want more, resolution, perfection. The soul waits for its maker. Every sunset retreats and beautiful moments fade, and something in the heart says, we were made for more. We are not home until we find it. In these and every little thing in life, we wait and yearn for our coming King.


“Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-12).


Christmas has come. We can rejoice, because we are waiting. We are betrothed, and Christ is coming. Every drink, every song, every merriment is a glimpse into the real feast — union with God. This is the Christian life.


“Opta ardua pennis astra sequi”


“Desire to pursue on wings the high stars.”










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