Archive for December 23rd, 2020

iPhone photo taken on 12/22/20

On the evening of December 21st, we were witness to the rare “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. The astrophysical phenomenon is a function of orbital mechanics whereby their rotations around the Sun produces an apparent visual separation of just .102 degrees at very predictable intervals.

While the conjunction of the two gas giants happens every 20 years, it is quite rare to have a visual separation this small. The last one like it took place on March 5th, 1226. What that practically means is that these two largest planets in our Solar System appear to the eye as one bright celestial object. With so small a visual arc of separation, both planets can be seen in the same field of view in the lens of a telescope.

Astronomers speculate that the “ Star of Bethlehem” may well have been a conjunction like the one seen in these last few days before Christmas. Visible in the southwest sky around 6:30 pm, the conjunction was most dramatic on the 21st of this month ( the date of the Winter Solstice).

Sky conditions on the 21st, unfortunately, made it impossible for me to spot it. However, I did get that chance to view it on the 22nd. This occasion was made all the more exciting for me as I did so with my two and a half year old granddaughter, Zoey Ava, her mom and dad, and Linda.

Zoey had no idea why Pop-Pop was all worked up about going outside in the cold to look to the southwest sky, but she eagerly joined me anyway. We enjoyed taking in the neighbors’ displays of Christmas lights along the way.

The word “planet” derives from the Greek, planetes, meaning wanderer, and it struck me that this is an apt characterization of all creatures. We are all of us moving through space-time in an expanding cosmic web wrapped in profound mystery.

Gazing at Jupiter and Saturn, our vision reaches out to points of reflected light coming from some 365 and 746 million miles away, respectively. While that may be a remarkable thing to ponder in itself, what is truly astonishing is that all of the drama is actually happening right here inside of each of us.

We are, after all, the stuff of stars made conscious. The elements of which we are made were forged in thermonuclear stellar explosions in a distant history. Here we were, just days before Christmas 2020, drawn to look out into the grand enigma to celebrate products of the same origins as we.

From the vantage point of consciousness, all that seeming distance between us and the planets and the stars is totally irrelevant. Thinking in terms of inside/ outside, or above/below is but the product of dualistic illusion. A quote from St Francis leaps to mind: “What you are looking for is what is looking.” We are indeed privileged participants in a grand entanglement.

As Zoey and the family walked to find a good angle from which to see the conjunction unobstructed and out of the glare of street lights, one of my favorite Christmas Carols leapt to mind: “I wonder as I wander out under the sky”.

My daughter spotted directly overhead another bright object. It was Mars with its unmistakable red hue making a bold appearance. We were treated to a planetary triptych.

Zoey picked up on my sense of the thrill of the moment. My enthusiasm was certainly further aroused by the fact that we will not see a conjunction this unusual again in our lifetimes. It was a one off for us and so it was particularly auspicious.

Despite the dazzling bright display in the sky on this crisp and clear night, it paled by comparison to the the sparkle in Zoey’s eyes. She had no need of understanding. It was sufficient to be present, under the canopy of heaven, as we gazed at the spectacle together. Thus, the moment was made holy.

I imagine it was just so for the Magi.

They were drawn toward mystery but not motivated to do so alone. The magic of the moment was that they each joined with two other like-minded wanderers. In the annual telling of the tale, three of them made the journey east: a mystical number indeed. The prize, on arrival, was “ Emmanuel”- God with Us.

Zoey and I, Linda, Stephan, and Kristen walked in the Spirit of the Living God. Love transfigured the night air, warming the chilly evening, and elevating it all to something so much greater.

where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

We Franciscans often chant the “ Ubi Caritas”: “ Where charity and love prevail, there our God is found. “

Amen. Merry Christmas!

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »