I've seen the moon rise many times in my life but never like one this past summer. As I sat at my computer just before dawn, something caught my eye out the window. There in the sky was a deep golden sphere near the horizon.
It was brilliant, replete with a surreal yellow-orange light from the soon-to-rise sun. In fact, so brilliant that it seemed like the sunrise itself. The spectacular show continued as I also found Saturn about four finger-widths to the right of the moon. A slight breeze rustled over the pond as a few songbirds began their morning anthem.
I breathed deeply, pushed the laptop away, walked outside, and drank in the beauty of creation moving and changing and transforming the earth right in front of me. Once again I was in awe. Once again I felt a tangible and deep connection to the universe and to the God who created it.
Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan
Remember lying on your back on the grass or the beach or the rooftop of a building as a kid, gazing up at the night sky and counting stars or trying to identify constellations? Summer evenings were always a teaching moment for my mother as she pointed out configurations high in the heavens above us, and then quizzed me the following evening. I remember even as a small child wondering how the universe could be so vast and endless.
Other galaxies beyond our own Milky Way? How could that be? It was too much to fathom - and still is - even as Voyager has recently passed out of our own solar system! Incredible! I think I fell in love with the universe a very long time ago, simultaneously (I now realize) as I was falling in love with the mystery of creation and the presence of God - the Divine Essence beyond my understanding. That "incomprehensible Holy Mystery" as Karl Rahner liked to describe God.
There's an old Native American tale about the belief that human beings can never truly reach maturity without making room within their bodies for the mystery, vastness, and ever-changing quality of the universe. I like to think it's the same way for our spiritual maturity, which is not possible without making room in our souls for the fathomless and boundless grace of God. That grace that inspires us, moves us, and ultimately can change and even transform us.
Spiritual director Judith Cannato once wrote, "Like the astronomers of old, we sometimes prefer a world fixed in place, with no movement to disturb our treasured vision of reality. We remain content in our ways when we need to be open and changed by new discoveries and new revelations!"
As I write this column, the next full moon is just four days away (on Oct. 18). I hope you caught a glimpse of it as it rose around 7:30 p.m. that night. If you missed it, try again on Nov. 3. And as you stand there gazing up at the bright white circle of light try to feel more than simple human amazement.
Remember to be in awe of the mysteries we cannot fathom, the Holy Mystery beyond our understanding of planets and moons and galaxies. Be in awe of all above you and especially around you. Stay attuned to where God's Spirit might be leading you to new revelations, new discoveries, and transformative moments right here on your earthly pilgrimage, and imagine the possibilities and opportunities with the people around you, who will take you far beyond your own private universe.