Every now and then a word just catches your ear, and several times in a day it jumps out at you and you’re tempted to say: “There it is again!”
Yesterday it was the word “consider”, an ordinary, daily word. Or is it? Why did it strike me so?
With my knowledge of Latin, it occurred to me that “consider” has something to do with the stars, for the Latin word sidera means “stars” or “heavenly bodies.” How interesting, I have use the word for the better part of 50 years and that had never crossed my mind. But as sometimes happens, I was too busy to check it out and got on to other things, the insight forgotten.
But then this morning, in the reading from the morning office, there it was again. Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
You must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11).
“Okay Lord, I got the message, you want me to consider the word “consider.” There’s something mystical and spiritual about it isn’t there, Lord?” The Lord didn’t need to answer. After prayer I spent time checking my hypothesis.
Sure enough, the word “consider” derives from the Latin root words cum+sidera meaning literally “with the stars”.
The dictionary assigns some of the following meanings to consider: to think about carefully, to think of especially with regard to taking some action , to take into account , to regard or treat in an attentive or kindly way , to gaze on steadily or reflectively, to come to regard, etc.
And all these meanings are true enough.
But the root meaning referring to the stars also brings the word so much more alive. Thus, my definition would include this notion: to reflect on as if pondering the stars, to gaze, as if with wonder and awe, to think carefully, reflectively as when one looks up and out at the night sky.
Yes, to look up and out: billion of miles out, into the vast sweep of space, over 100 Billion Galaxies and untold numbers more of stars in each. Yes, to “consider” in its literal root is to root our thoughts in the perspective of the stars. This fills us with wonder and awe, reminds of the extravagance of God’s love, and humbles us by the sheer vastness of all things God has done. It is to see by the light of God’s glory and his expansive love. To consider is to think in a way that sees the present moment as caught up in something far more vast and ancient that the mere here and now; it is to experience the moment, the is place and time, as part of something more vast and ancient that we can imagine.
And thus in St. Paul’s admonition: you must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus, we are being invited to grasp that God’s mercy and love are bigger than any sin we may have committed. We are summoned to look beyond the present moment, and behold with wonder and awe the perfection that God has already accomplished for us.
And as we see and behold that reality we start to live out of it now. As we cast our thoughts out among the stars, as we think cum sidera, we look outward and upward from the present reality, to the glory wanting for us in heaven. And, as St Paul exhorts, making this “consideration” helps that reality begin to break in to the present moment and become ever more real to us, and for us.
And as it does break in, sins begin to be put to death, and virtues come alive. Our life begins to change as we see beyond the present moment where there may be weakness and pain, and we see (out there past the stars) to the victory that is ours and is so much bigger that this mere moment. And thus we become alive to God in Christ Jesus.
All this from one word: consider: to reflect as if pondering the stars, to gaze, as if with wonder and awe, to think carefully, reflectively as when one looks up and out at the night sky.
Yes, words are wonderful and many of them are mystical. Think about it, the stars get you to look up and out, to gaze beyond, with wonder and awe, to consider.
Not a bad thing to do when seeking perspective, or pondering paths; when searching for answers, searching for meaning, searching for God.
Give it some consideration.