Archive for January 26th, 2019

 Praise the Lord from the heavens;

Praise Him in the heights!

Praise Him, all His angels;

Praise Him, all His hosts!

Praise Him, sun and moon;

Praise Him, all you stars of light!” Psalm 148 1-3


Our local book and Bible study group is exploring the Book of Psalms with the aid of Anglican Archbishop NT Wright’s good book, The Case for the Psalms.

The Psalms are a foundational gift that give voice to the heart of Faith. It was the Hymnal used and likely memorized by Jesus from which he drew comfort, reassurance and meaning. It embodies the worldview of a people who placed all events in their lives within the context of their covenant with God. Everything ( all events, emotions and circumstances ) were seen through the lens of a defining sacred intimacy. Made to be sung (chanted), the psalms are a vehicle by which to be transported into God’s space and time.  They are designed to engage our whole being as we resonate to the rhythms of poetic praise and supplication. 

On the night of January 20th, the heavens gifted us with a precious reminder of His grandeur and the mystery of Being echoing the joyful strains of the psalmist. Beginning around 10 PM, the shadow of Earth was cast onto the lunar surface as our orbit brought us between the Sun and the Moon. It was visible across all of North America (where skies permitted).  On this occasion, it was an especially striking event, a so-called Super wolf blood moon eclipse: happening in Winter, with the moon at its closest approach, and glowing a dark orange as our shadow was projected onto the lunar surface. 

It was an especially cold January night across the country. In Florida, it was in the low 40’s. My wife and I decided to bundle up, go out to the car armed with blankets and pillows, and open up the sunroof that gave us, on reclining in driver and passenger seats, a great angle at which to watch the spectacle. (It certainly didn’t hurt that we could turn the car heater on from time to time.)

We were not disappointed!

The sky cleared completely of earlier cloud cover and the full super moon was brilliant in the sky against the backdrop of the canopy of Winter stars. 

So, a reasonable person could well ask: what’s so special about all this that warrants stepping out on a cold night and so late to stare up at such an event? 

Well, as the show began, moving from a small sliver of shade to the fully shadowed Moon (turning blood orange), I found special meaning in reciting the last of the Psalms, psalm 148, the first lines of which I’ve given above. 

These words held special meaning for me and were made so much more more powerful as I considered the mysterious and improbable miracle of our being at all. Only at times like this, do I really fully consider the fact that I am floating in space on this old “ship” positioned perfectly for life by the enigmatic force of gravity and an ideal distance from the Sun ( the “ Goldilocks Zone”). How amazing is it that we can calculate to the minute when such events will occur, and we can do so many years in advance owing to the predictable rhythms of the solar system. 

In the same way, I find great delight in so called occultations and transits: when planets seemingly line up, relative to our perch in space, so we see them as if all in a row, or when one eclipses another, or one or more of their moons become especially visible. Everything is moving by an order set by the forces that originated five billion years ago, the age of our solar system. 

We watch this cosmic dance and imagine infinities, and consider worlds hurled across unimaginable distances. It is in precisely in these moments that I think again about the “Imago Dei” – the image of God in which we are fashioned, made to wonder and imagine the vastness of God’s artistry.

All this occurs during Epiphany, the season that the Church defines in terms of a troika of events: the Magi, arriving to greet the Christ child at his home when around two years old, as scholars figure, the baptism of Our Lord in the river Jordan launching his ministry, and the Wedding Feast at Cana. All three events were manifestations of Emmanuel, God with Us. 

Though we pass through this life largely unaware of the great patterns and events that define the universe, the miracle of our being and the gift of wondering invite us continually to deep prayer. An eclipse is just one special natural reminder of the precious gift of life and consciousness: eyes to see it, and a mind that reaches out well beyond itself. 

As the reflected light of the Sun returned from the Moon as the Earth moved past it, my mind drifted back to a statement made by one of the great souls of the 20th century whose worked shaped so much of my thinking: paleontologist, Jesuit Priest, mystic and theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He said, reflecting on the stuff of the universe that we can see: “ Matter is Spirit moving slow enough that it can be seen!”

Amen. Praise God! 

© The Harried Mystic, 2019 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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