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Search for the rising sun

Dear Friends and Parishioners of Saint Patrick,

Having recently returned from Australia and New Zealand with my sister and my brother-in-law, I want to share a memorable experience.  No, it wasn’t a boxing match with kangaroos (although I had an opportunity to feed some of them).  And it wasn’t the hiking through lush and pristine areas (even though it is currently winter there).  It occurred one morning in Auckland when we decided to get up at 5:00am and Uber our way to Mt. Eden, a volcanic formation outside the city. We wanted to experience what has been described as a local daily phenomena. But we had to be there by 7:21am. 

New Zealand happens to be among the first places in the world to welcome the rising of the sun each day (this is due to the location of the country and its proximity to the international dateline).  The area around Auckland is surrounded by over 50 islands and peninsulas formed by volcanic eruptions.  Mt. Eden is one of the tallest points near the city to view the sunrise.

As we set out in complete darkness, we were dropped off at one of the paths which led to the peak of Mt. Eden. 

Because of the predawn absence of light, we had only noticed one path.  With flashlights in hand (well, cell phones with “light option” turned on), we proceeded along this path and made our ascent.  I recall whispering to my travel companions how surprised I was not to encounter any other sunrise seekers, even as we approached the end of the path that led us to an incredible view of the city skyline.  “I guess it’s not as popular as the tour books claim.” My sister added, “maybe because it’s winter and very cold.”  We all agreed that a thermos of hot cocoa would have been a great idea.  Maybe a mimosa for this occasion?

It’s now 6:42am.  Very gradually, a glimmer of morning light began to interrupt the total darkness.  Forms and shapes began to appear. Outlines of wooded areas and other objects emerged. However, something else became very evident: we weren’t at the peak. The path actually continued around the corner.   Now able to see with the fledging light, we hurried up the hill. We had a bit more to go before reaching the peak. 

Lo and behold! Dozens and dozens of fellow sunrise pilgrims greeted us as they were already gathered on the observation decks – room for everybody.  With only whispers invading the solemn silence, sunup, as the natives refer to it, was happening!

I downloaded Psalm 113 in order to pray quietly through this moment of encounter with the 4.5-billion-year-old yellow dwarf star.  “From the rising of the sun to its setting may the name of the Lord be praised!”   Who knew that something 93 million miles away could feel so close.  After twenty minutes of quiet wonder we strolled down Mt. Eden as we admired the volcanic features.      

Because we began this journey in utter darkness we almost missed our destination.  It only took a little light to illuminate our path and help us navigate.  And once we realized our mistake, we continued our journey toward a community of others who were also seeking the rising of the sun.  What a glorious morning and powerful lesson to cherish in my heart for years to come.   

Joyfully yours in Christ the Risen Son,

Fr. Gurnick