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The Unfading Star

A missionary shares how he contemplates on the holy night of the Easter Vigil, the “star that never fades,” who is the Risen Christ. He is not only the brightest star but also the king of all stars shining everywhere for everyone to stare at.

In the early hours of Holy Saturday, the news came out that fuel arrived and the petrol station would be working. At last! I can’t miss the occasion, I said to myself decisively. The pickup of the Comboni mission of El Obeid, Sudan, had been immobilized for about two months.

At sunrise I was at the gas station. Hopefully today will go better than the time I had to spend the night in the car, having only been attended to on the following day at noon. Along with the Breviary and other reading material, I have bread, dates, and enough water to provide me with the essentials for the entire day. 

Ahead of me I see a queue that stretches for over a mile. We are told that there is a lot of confusion and disorder right next to the gas station. This happens quite often, but this time the army arrived just in time to avoid unrest.

As I was waiting, one of the drivers of the car ahead of me approaches my car holding a bowl of ful, the traditional dish of broad beans, and a cup of mint tea, just coming out of the makeshift kitchen. With a nod of his head, he pointed to the car in front before putting the bowl on the hood. 

I appreciated his encouraging and comforting words: “May God give us patience to continue to be in the queue.” He swallowed the last gulp of tea and concluded: “God willing, tomorrow before noon we will have already been attended to.”

Certainly they must have seen some changes on my face as I reacted inwardly. Tomorrow?! And what about the Easter Vigil? And Easter Sunday?  Absolutely not! Petrol is very necessary but Easter is Easter. And, I abandoned the queue.

Stillness And Silence
Upon entering the house, an atmosphere of stillness and silence welcomed me. Brother Agostino, my missionary colleague, was seated on the carpet in adoration in the improvised chapel for those two holy days. 

At a certain moment, he showed me the book of the liturgy in his hand, pointing out to me the phrase from the Easter proclamation on which he was meditating: “The star that does not fade.” For us Christians, the message of this sentence is of an extraordinary profound truth. Indeed, the Risen Jesus Christ is the unparalleled and unique star.

The starry sky is best visible in the free desert, without the artificial lights of the city getting in the way, Brother Agostino told me convincingly. For him, talking about stars is not a trivial conversation. He always finds great pleasure in sleeping in the open, even on some cold winter nights, looking at the vault of the sky dotted with points of light, and falling asleep talking to the stars. He knows each of the constellations by name. I wasn’t used to looking at the sky that way, but I’m glad he has awakened in me that same desire.

Holy Night
The moment came when the crowd of faithful, in the compound of the cathedral, gathered around the fire for the beginning of the great vigil celebration. The paschal candle, after being lit from the newly blessed fire, took its place in front of the faithful who, in turn, started to sing Jesus Christ as the light of the world. 

Entering the cathedral through the main door, the candle was placed next to the ambo from where Fr. Faustin solemnly sang the paschal proclamation. And the grandiose phrase echoed in its full meaning from his lovely and bright voice: “The star that does not fade.” Instantly, my eyes sought out Agostino, who looked at me with a confirming broad smile.

After the celebration of the great vigil, like many times before, we looked, in awe, at the luminous dotted firmament, our fingers pointing out the stars and constellations. Certainly, our dog and cat were not surprised at all with this familiar scene. I guess they would even understand our conversation and comments on such beautiful nights. 

At a certain moment, I was comfortable enough to tease my brother Agostino: The star of the Easter vigil… you don’t see it on your starry nights, do you? To which he replied without hesitation:

“On the contrary, I see it all the way. Not only is it the brightest light, it is also the king of all stars. And the wonder is that you don’t have to wait for the night to see it because it is always visible. Such a star does not depend on time and space. It’s just there for everyone to enjoy its presence. It is everywhere. Any time. The unfading star.” 

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