“May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.” The Exsultet
“Oh love, we shine like a burning star, we’re falling from the sky tonight. A man will rise, a man will fall from the sheer face of love like a fly from a wall.” Paul Hewson
“He has a daughter he calls Easter, she was born on a Tuesday night.” Sheryl Crow
“Perhaps the star of Bethlehem is not a star at all.” Neil Young
I once counted stars. I counted one star the first night and went out to count successive stars each night for a week. On the seventh night, I made a wish on the seventh star. The particular of the matter does not belong here, but broadly interpreted my wish was not to be lonely. And I was lonely.
Just two years before I watched children being led by the star bearer walking down the aisle of a church parading kings to the front of the sanctuary to the crèche. It was epiphany and I went home that night thinking how much she would have loved to have been in the star led procession.
A few weeks later I am standing outside with him and we are wistfully thinking of her. He points up to a brightly shining star and asks if the stars are really angels and if that one is her. He wants to know if she can make it rain. It is pointless to explain to a five year old the true nature of the stars in the sky, but I assure him even if she could make it rain, it is the last thing she would ever do. Since that night stars which always had a special place for me came to be a word to mean the angels who had walked the earth.
I don’t know why I relate the U2 song with my first star. I know the song must have been about romantic and not parental love, but I came to associate her with the words “burning star” and as she was no longer present to me in this world…..how we rise and fall in the presence and absence of others.
My wish that night two years later was different and it was fulfilled, though only briefly. It was much more like the intent of the song, though you can never be too sure with U2. I had now called another a star though the relationship never became one that deserved a word that implied such intensity and since that time I came to use the word very sparingly. (You can count the number of those I’ve called stars on one hand, though I do use the word a little more broadly to define everyone who imparts grace.)
For a little while after that seventh night I no longer felt alone and I became more joyous though the burning ferocity of a star became more about conversations over beer and coffee than Ferris Wheels and cotton candy. The two are not unrelated. Most of the time when we love another person, there is a grace in that embrace which is the same regardless of what the other is to us. That reality is the one that stayed with me.
There must be a grace in being a star in that they are the messengers of grace. In that way they are like the angels. It was a star that first danced for Him after all, the one that was held up by a child in that epiphany procession. That one is easy to figure out. Stars always mean something at Christmas, but in April 1995, still reeling from grief I came to think of my star, now a daughter of the Resurrection, as Easter. When Sheryl Crow released “Everyday Is A Winding Road” in 1996 I secretly protested her assertion Easter was born on a Tuesday. I knew Easter was born on a September Friday in Chicago. With that I realized Chicago was a holy city and only those who had the belief and courage to tell me she lives in a way she could never live here and that I could still speak with her asking her intercession deserved to share her Resurrection name.
Very soon we will celebrate another birthday. It is good the day is fixed on the calendar as it means that every day of the week can lay claim to it. The obvious star will be there for it. It will be the messenger to the wise men just as an angel was a messenger to the shepherds. They will point us to the One who is a star like no other, who though born on Christmas assumes the title of star on the Vigil of Easter. Culture may call others stars….all those athletes and celebrities who mostly do not deserve the moniker, but If anyone who lives in grace calls one by this name then that one must be like the star of Bethlehem clinging so close to the Earth it may not be a star in the stellar sense at all, but rather one that leads the way to Him who is our true star.