"With a hymn composed in the eighth or ninth century, thus for over a
thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as “Star of the
Sea”: Ave maris stella. Human life is a journey. Towards what
destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of
history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that
indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived
good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light,
the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we
also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along
our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she
opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the
Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among
us (cf. Jn1:14)."
Pope Benedict XVI on the image of the sea in religious history, in Jesus of Nazareth:
"Water is the primordial element of life and is therefore also one of the primordial symbols of humanity. It appears to man in various forms and hence with various meanings. . . .
"It is a power that evokes admiration; its majesty calls forth amazement. Above all, though, it is feared in its guise as the counterpart to the earth, the domain of human life. The Creator has assigned the sea its limits, which it may not transgress: It is not permitted to swallow up the earth. The crossing of the Red Sea was above all a symbol of salvation for Israel, but of course it also points to the danger that proved to be the destiny of the Egyptians. If Christians consider the crossing of the Red Sea as a prefiguring of Baptism, there in the immediate foreground is the symbolism of death: It becomes an image of the mystery of the Cross. In order to be reborn, man must first enter with Christ into the 'Red sea,' plunge with him down into death, in order thus to attain new life with the risen Lord."
Photo: The cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean at Uluwatu Temple (Hindu), Bali, Indonesia. Photo taken by me in April, 1998.
"Never will I forget the impression the sea made upon me; I couldn't take my eyes off it since its majesty, the roaring of its waves, everything spoke to my soul of God's grandeur and power. . . . I made the resolution never to wander far away from the glance of Jesus in order to travel peacefully toward the eternal shore!"
- St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul (Study Edition, Manuscript A), writing of a trip to the ocean when she was 5 years old.
Photo: Crescent Beach (or maybe Endert's Beach?), Crescent City, California, photo by me, probably taken in 1995. I think this is one of several photos I took from a trail going into a redwood forest on the bluffs above the shoreline.
“In mental prayer, ecstasy is not at all inevitable. It is even exceptional. The one praying is usually like a swimmer who moves along on the surface. He bathes in the water but he always belongs to the atmospheric world. Then in ecstasy, suddenly he plunges, as if seized by the depths. He would have to suffocate. But, cared for by the abyssal entity that calls him, he survives, a limited time, surely, but consequent enough that he can discover the supernatural realities that underlie the world.”
"I would like you to spend some time fishing. How? Here is how. The holy suffering of Jesus is a sea of sorrows, but it is also a sea of love. Ask the Lord to teach you to fish in this sea. Immerse yourself in it, and, no matter how deeply you go, you will never reach the bottom. Allow yourself to be penetrated with love and sorrow. In this way you will make the sufferings of the gentle Jesus your own.
"Fish for the pearls of the virtues of Jesus. This holy fishing is done without words; faith and love teach the way. The one who is most humble is the outstanding fisher. I do not have time for more because my pen has gone bad. The recollection that God gives me of the mercies done to your soul has made me write as I have; make use of this as it will please the Lord. Continue your prayers for me and also for my poor intentions. Jesus make you as holy as I wish but with the secret holiness of the Cross, which is the most precious. God bless you. Amen."
- St. Paul of the Cross, Letter 1122 to Sister Rose Mary Teresa of the Crucified Redeemer, written from San Angelo, April 8, 1758, from The Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, Vol. II.
A portion of a beautiful essay titled "The Solitude of the Sea," about praying alone by the sea, from Abbot Joseph of the Mount Tabor Monastery in northern California, posted this past Friday morning at Word Incarnate (click the link to read the entire essay):
"I turned my gaze from the western infinity to the southern shoreline to observe the white-crested waves gliding effortlessly but with great speed, as if they had some urgent business waiting on the shore. Row after row, they spent themselves in tumbling crashes on the sand. They’ve been doing this day and night for millions of years, but it’s always like seeing it for the first time, so enthralling is their majesty and power.
"To speak of majesty and power is to refer, of course, to their Maker. But this time I thought more of mercy than majesty. We sometimes say in our penitential liturgies that our sins are more than the sands of the seashore. Yet behold, wave after wave of the Ocean of Mercy washes them clean! For every sin a new wave hurries to the shore, ready to scour the oft-trodden sand till it shines. It’s his nature, after all, to forgive. He delights to forgive; He must forgive. Do not disappoint his desire by your indifference toward repentance. Give the Lord the joy of forgiving your sins! Someday we will see clearly this torrent of everlasting love, and it will be our delight to plunge in it forever!"
Sunday's Gospel is St. Mark's record of Jesus calming the storm at sea. Here is the Gospel (RSV) and links to commentaries on it:
35On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?" 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?" 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"[Mark 4:35-41 RSV]
"Very often we have no control over the political and social developments of our society; we have little or no control over what other people are doing. But, no matter what we are experiencing, we can -- with the help of Jesus -- find peace. It is the peace which only he can give. And it is a peace which no person and no thing can take away from us." [from Living Space]
that frail boat we see a prophetic image of the Church across the ages, always tossed in
the tempest of persecution and controversy but like Noah’s Ark, always surviving the
storm." [from Homiletic & Pastoral Review]
Picture: Rembrandt's painting The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.
"I fear that we have, so to speak, undertaken to steer a ship through the waves of an angry sea and can neither control it nor without sin abandon it, for, as a certain wise man says:
"'If it is dangerous to be negligent in steering a ship in the midst of the sea, how much more perilous to abandon it in a storm with the waves running high; and even so the Church which makes its way through the ocean of this world like a great ship, buffeted in this life by diverse waves of temptation, is yet not to be abandoned but to be controlled.' [Julianus Pomerius, De vita contemplativa; Migne, P.L., 59, 431.]
"As examples we have the early fathers Clement and Cornelius and many others in Rome, Cyprian in Carthage, Athanasius in Alexandria, who, under pagan emperors, guided the ship of Christ -- nay, his dearest spouse, the Church -- teaching, defending, laboring, and suffering even unto the shedding of blood."
- St. Boniface, Letter No. LXII , Boniface to Archbishop Cuthbert of Canterbury, 747 A.D., from The Letters of Saint Boniface, translated by Ephraim Emerton (Records of Western Civilization Series), Columbia University Press.
Photo: Swami's Beach, Encinitas, California, in winter. ("Pictures by the Sea" photos in right sidebar will be updated tonight. Some of the photos from Memorial Day will be added, and some of the winter pictures taken out.)