The refrain of a song I recently added to my playlist kept replaying in my mind during my travels and vacation recently. Possibly because I was driving so much, and because the late summer scenery was so beautiful, I couldn’t stop hearing:
Climb up in the front seat and feast your eyes on the open country.
Feasting my eyes is a perfect way to describe one of the reasons I love to drive. The vistas of the Pennsylvania Turnpike are sufficient to dwarf the annoyance of Breezewood, and what some consider the monotony of the Ohio Turnpike is for me a series of familiar and delightful details. Yes, I love the open country, and enjoy the ripple and roll of even the gentlest terrain, the reassuring solidity of the mountains, and the gaping gulches that yawn beneath brilliant bridges.
Feast your eyes. How true it is, that we are able to take in so much with our eyes, and it is so good! On a beautiful summer’s day, I set my navigation system to “avoid highways” and set out, beholding the glory of creation spread before and behind me, wild or tilled. Rolling past uncountable farms, fields, woods, homes, and orchards spread between towns with their gridded order and commerce was a feast indeed, though I consumed nothing. More than a diversion, this is for me nourishment for mind and soul.
All the while I was feasting, I was also mindful of my return here. Stepping out of my car and into mid-September, the frenzy of fall would be already underway. The parish has its rhythms, and the tempo is already quick. School has started, sports are well into their season, groups and classes and troops and projects are proceeding. It seems, not only to me, that we are moving across a landscape that is familiar, but at the same time new. Are we going anywhere?
Similarly, we are moving forward in history. Sometimes it seems we are plodding, other times hurtling. The events and developments of the day baffle or delight us, amaze or frighten us, and make us wonder: Where are we headed?
All the while our eyes cast about for something on which to settle, something by which to gauge our progress or mark our direction. We see our children grow and blossom, but over the same time we begin to fade and diminish, much as we hate to admit it. So which is it?
As we travel, our eyes help us understand and enjoy the trip. To understand our life’s journey, we need to grasp realities both visible and invisible. In the Sacred Liturgy, the terrain of our salvation spreads out before and behind us in a way that we can see and understand. History is where the Lord has been, and our future is where He intends to be. The way we travel is both new and familiar, both wild and tilled, and made holy by the passing of the feet of the very God.
Lest we feel like we are just “marking time”, or lost, trapped, or bored, God places Himself before our eyes. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (Jn 1:14) He wants us not only to know about Him, but moreover to know Him. He is the image of the invisible God. (Col 1:15) In His life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, we see not only what He has done, but what He is doing now and for us. For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it. (Lk 10:24)
On the journey of our lives, we may as well be in a shipping crate unless we place ourselves at the window of worship of the Word in Scripture and Sacrament, prayer and praise. Jesus invites us: Climb up in the front seat and feast your eyes on the open country. Know where you come from, where you are going, and enjoy the journey. Come to the feast!