As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee… (Matthew 4:18)
My wife and I agree that one of our life’s most unexpected blessings has been finding a home near the water, a few blocks’ walk away from the levee along Lake Pontchartrain’s south shore.
The Refulgence of Galilee
When I was growing up, my family spent lots of time along the Rhode Island shoreline, especially in and around a wonderful small town called, as divine serendipity would have it, Galilee. I fell in love then with the ocean, wholly taken with its dark and turgid mysteries that circumscribed all manner of aquatic life (eels, blue fish, flounder, porgy, or even occasional nocturnal flourishes of bioluminescent plankton). I was taken with the oscillating and restless play between stormy danger and placid calm; taken with the bracing vastness beyond Narraganset Bay and the embracing intimacy within Wickford Cove; taken with the water’s capacity to gather people in chaotic order around those majestic Tall Ships at Newport Harbor, only then all at once to find ourselves isolated in an anchored solitude on the Atlantic ocean far past Block Island.
But the true theft by heaven of my childhood imagination was left to the magnetic and mystic blaze of a starry night (only to be found far away from the man-lit shore) where the billion-star Milky Way arranged its oriental escape from, and occidental plunge back into, the ocean’s indiscernible horizons. This, above all, took me away from my small life’s many cares and gave me an inkling of a Grand and Free God who ebbs and flows between hiding from, and peeking out of, creation — at me.
So now, as I have the privilege of walking or biking, fishing or just sitting aimlessly gazing across Pontchartrain’s 24 mile stretch, it’s Galilee again for me; though now I can more knowingly see, feel and maybe hear the rustle, if I’m lucky, even beyond an inkling, of Jesus walking along the shore. Here. Now.
How? A wise and elder theologian once gave me a gift — an awe-some image capable of sacramentalizing my shoreline prayer:
Imagine what it was like for God in the flesh, with human eyes, feelings, imagination, looking out at His own creation with delight; across the seas that He made teem with life; that He once spoke into existence; and remembering that Day in His divine-human mind as if it were only yesterday. In your prayer before the ocean, ask for Him to share that delight with you…
I must leave you with a lecture by Peter Kreeft that I think is a masterpiece of language and theology and humanity — about the sacramentality of the sea. It’s a bit long (~40 minutes), but absolutely worth taking the time to listen when you can.