Grateful for the Sea, הגליל

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…

The Sea

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.

4 comments on “Grateful for the Sea, הגליל

  1. DZSJ-AMDG says:

    I love this invitation to reflection. I often think about Christ sitting and praying by the sea as his moment of reflection and encounter with the Father.
    I drive the 24 mile span of Lake Pontchartrain as part of my commute and I often use this time for prayer and reflection. In fact, many North Shore Catholics know and say that the drive across the lake is the perfect length for a rosary. 🙂
    In addition to finding time for this spiritual practice as I drive over the lake, I find the lake itself as spiritually evocative. The water is a different color each time I see it – blue, green, gray, brown, white, black – depending on weather or time of day. It is beautiful but also frightening to take it all in – a kind of mysterium tremendum et fascinans of the natural world that also evokes its Awesome and All Powerful Creator.
    The water also recalls for me the biblical images of water from our tradition, and how the water reveals and symbolizes the mystery of God’s invitation to humankind. It is life and death, flourishing and flooding, a manifestation Romans 6:3 of how the water of baptism is both entry into a tomb and resurrection to new life from it. No other place I have lived revealed to me this understanding as does Lake Pontchartrain and how it has given life and death to the city of New Orleans.

    • Judy Svendsen says:

      I look forward to getting home tonight and watching the video. Thank you for the reminder of the many memories my family has of both places. We too have been to the surrounding areas of the Narraganset Bay and Lake Pontchatrain. I would have to say those, plus FL, bring back great memories. I love the Ocean and always feel at peace there. I also feel, and I guess because of God’s beauty, I do my best praying/thinking in the mountains of CO and at the ocean. I also can find it on my back porch on a cool morning with a cup of coffee. God knew what he was was doing!

      • Judy, once again your path and mine crisscross in so many places! I can always think of you in nature, at a sports field, in a classroom with students, praying, so what you say here makes sense to me. Blessings on you and the fam!! Tom

    • Thank you for your like experience — how amazing to hear how alike it is!! But your insights really fill out mine and give me new reasons to pray along the shore. Thank you!

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