Yesterday it was the word “consider,” an ordinary, everyday word…or is it? Why did it suddenly 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 fifty years and that had never crossed my mind before. But as sometimes happens, I was too busy to check it out and got on to other things, the insight forgotten as quickly as it had come.
But then this morning in the reading from the morning office, there it was again. Paul’s Letter to the Romans says,
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 some time checking out my hypothesis.
Sure enough, the word “consider” comes from the Latin root words cum (with) and sidera (stars), thus meaning literally “with the stars.”
The dictionary assigns the following meanings to the word ‘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, and to come to regard.
And all these meanings are accurate enough.
But the root meaning referring to the stars also brings the word so much more alive. Thus my definition would include the following perspectives: to reflect upon as if pondering the stars, to gaze as if with wonder and awe, to think carefully and reflectively as when one looks up and out at the night sky.
Yes, to look up and out, billions of miles out into the vast sweep of space with over 100 billion galaxies and untold numbers more of stars in each one. Yes, to “consider” from its literal root is to base 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 the things that 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 immense and ancient than the mere here and now; it is to experience the moment, the place and time, as part of something more vast and timeless than 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 to behold with wonder and awe the perfection that God has already accomplished.
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 waiting for us in heaven. And, as St Paul exhorts, making this “consideration” helps that reality begin to break into 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 look beyond the present, in which there may be weakness and pain, and we see (out there past the stars) to the victory that is already ours and is so much bigger than 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 and 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.
In a similar vein, Fr. Robert Barron has described how the word “recognize” means (literally) to rethink something, to take up a thought that has already been thought (re (again) + cogitare (to think)). We live in an intelligible world, a world that was thought into being by God. And thus when we recognize something, we are thinking something that God has already thought into being; we are rethinking it. Think about it! Can you not recognize this? Indeed, consider it well!