Sometimes before I go to sleep I step out on our back porch and look up at the stars. Stars are distant neighbors to us, and the light we see takes years to get to us. The closest star, Alpha Centauri A, is about 4 light years away, and most stars are 1000 light years away, some even several thousand more. The light we see when we look up took years, sometimes thousands of years, to get to us. Whenever someone travels from a long distance I want to honor their travel. “Wow,” I say, “You drove for three days to get here,” or “You sat in the middle seat in coach on the flight across the Pacific! How did you do it?” The journey is a big deal, and I always try to acknowledge it. When I see the light of the stars I think, “You came all this way, a journey of thousands of years, so I could see you at this moment.”
In the Sayings of the Desert Fathers we are told that Paul the Barber lived with his brother Timothy, also a barber, in Scetis. I assume they still practiced their trade as barbers because Timothy said to Paul, “Why do we follow this trade? They do not let us live in peace the whole day long?” Abba Paul’s response to him is, “The peace of the night is enough for us if our thoughts are watchful.”
We fill the day with unanswered questions. Will the money be enough? Will I be enough to encounter the challenges of life? Will the medical report be ok? Will our nation and world manage to stumble through our challenges with an answer that works? The worries of these unanswered questions devour us if we let them. Like Abba Paul’s brother Timothy, it’s hard to find peace through the whole day. Then I go outside at night and see the stars, and I see light that took a thousand years to get to me. Here is light that began its journey 30 generations ago, and when I remember that my worries are placed into a bigger timeline. It’s not that my crises or worries are any less significant, but I have peace in seeing the ancient light which probably shrugs its shoulders at my worries. What does my worry about how I’ll do on tomorrow’s task mean in the light of a star that traveled a 1000 years? I know Paul the Barber and his brother Timothy didn’t know a thing about what stars were and how far their light has come, but Paul says the peace of the night is enough. It is. The peace of the night, where we see a much bigger picture, where our we hit the pause button on the troubles of the day, is enough.
The stars shine at night, but they are silent, having nothing to say about my worries. In that light my worries are silent, too. Abba Paul was right; the peace of the night is enough.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict