One of my delights during this dark time of the year is to view the bright morning star Venus in the southeast sky just before dawn. I am fortunate that our bedroom window faces southeast so I get a clear view of the “star” (actually a planet) shinning so confidently and powerfully in its solitary sojourn across the morning sky. From time immemorial the stars have accompanied us, guided us, inspired us to remember the vast glory and awe that invites our souls and imagination into an awesome mystery that humbles and delights us with eternal assurance, especially during dark times.
Ten years ago I spent a week at Ring Lake Ranch in the high desert area of the Wind Mountains in Wyoming. The retreat center is located outside of the town of Dubois which has the distinction, I understand, of being the most isolated town in the lower states, most importantly it is isolated from light pollution. One spectacularly clear night I was mesmerized by the sheer, overwhelming expanse of millions of stars tightly covering the whole canopy of the sky. The Milky Way really did become a “road of stars.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. How can the heart hold such wonder!
The morning star Venus is the ancient symbol of love and the only star with a feminine name. She is a celestial reminder that ultimately our most expansive experience of God is love and our primary purpose in our brief sojourn here on earth is to learn to love and to be loved. I consider Venus as an angel that raises our spirits above the vulnerability and travail when lives can seem to close in on us.
It is a challenge to maintain spiritual and emotional equilibrium when so much in the news can feel not only unjust but cruel, depressing and despairing. A number of times a day I am reminded about the suffering caused by the warfare in Palestine and the Ukraine especially. And just being as fully present as possible to life in general always includes sharing in the hardships of family and friends and our communities, especially in this emotionally heightened holiday season.
But that lovely morning star provides perspective and an intimation of reality that creation is so much larger than we can imagine. Whether or not we can ascribe a celestial perspective such as a star as a ray of hope, we can be reminded that the celestial bodies by their very existence bring a promise of eternal order above our earthly chaos.
And finally I am reminded of the prominent role a star, I imagine to be Venus, in the biblical Jesus narrative provided guidance for the three “wise men.” . They were seeking a presence worthy of the most precious of gifts, with a promise, a hope, for the release for their people from an oppressive power. And the utter surprise of the story is that were directed to a savior who was not a well-placed heroic figure, but a simple, lowly baby born to poor, displaced parents with “no place to lay their heads.” The star is but one of the memorable symbols that anchor the birth of Jesus narrative in a timeless story of redemption and hope..
We in the northwest have many blessings from our environment, but we seldom have access to a fully illumined night sky. But we can still know all those stars are out there in all their glory, shining down upon us with their blessing of eternity, promise, and hope.
May this Season of Light bring you intimations of starlit promise, assurance and hope.
Note on Venus
For those interested in astronomy, below is some basic information about Venus and its current status. I found that the astronomers are so excited about their field they want to overly regale us with the wonders of the skies, and a simple request for information on Venus became pages of background information on all that is related to this one topic. Below is but a taste, and I encourage you to google Venus for more information.
"Venus was at inferior conjunction on Aug. 13, in line between the Earth and the sun. Now it is swinging away from that line, speeding ahead of the Earth in its faster orbit.
In fact, Venus has erupted into view in the eastern morning sky during the past couple of weeks. When September opened, this resplendent "Morning Star" was rising just prior to dawn's first glow at around 4:30 a.m. local daylight time. But with each passing morning, Venus has been rising ever higher and has been getting a little brighter; it will attain its greatest brilliance on Sept. 19, appearing at an eye-popping magnitude of -4.8. This is 23 times as bright as the brightest star in the sky, Sirius (in Canis Major, the Big Dog), and seven times as bright as the next-brightest planet, Jupiter.
And by month's end, it's rising just prior to 3:30 a.m. and will precede the sun by some three and a half hours!"