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Faces on Faith: Discover the mystery that lies within us

May 16, 2014
By REV. DR. ELLEN SLOAN - Saint Michael and All Angels ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

"How deep I find your thoughts, O God, how great is the sum of them. If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand."

This image of sand and the trillions of particles lying on any of our beaches -- an image from Psalm 139 -- has always been my image of the universe as well. Trillions of stars and planets and other cosmic bodies, as impossible to conceive of or to count as the sand -- and as great a sum as the thoughts and mysterious workings of our God. "How deep I find your thoughts, O God." How in awe I continue to be of all your creation.

In awe once again, I stood outside one evening this week as the full moon lit up the island! As many times as the full moon appears, it is still an incredible sight to observe its reflected light permeate the landscape in the stillness and quiet of the earth's night. I was left again with a catch in my throat when I looked up and contemplated the beauty and immensity of the moon and all around it -- and the Creator God within and without and surrounding it all. My persistent thirst since childhood to comprehend the universe became one with my hunger to comprehend the essence of God. I was reminded again of Karl Rahner's description of God: "that incomprehensible Mystery," so like the unfathomable mystery of the universe above me.

Article Photos

Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan. PHOTO PROVIDED.

How humanity has striven to unlock the mysteries of the universe! From Aristotle's cosmology that heaven and earth were two distinct areas, to Ptolemy's complex system of small and large concentric circles, to Copernicus' major discovery that not only did the Earth rotate on its axis but was also circling the sun as well. Copernicus' theories were actually put on a list of forbidden books because Christian doctrine at the time had earth and its humans as the center of the universe! How enlightened he was to dispel those notions and prove that we were simply one small part of God's great plan of creation. And we could go on with the human hunger to explore and know -- through Galileo and Newton, on to the Hubble Telescope or the latest Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Ahh....humanity's attempts to comprehend the mysteries above, around, and beyond us -- in distance and in theology.

As the full moon continued to glow that night, I recalled that the great mystics wrote that all of our lives are absolutely rooted in mystery; indeed, they believe that the deepest level a human being can reach is full union with God and all of creation -- where one stops trying to understand the mystery in human terms, and simply admits and enters the presence of a living God here among us -- a Kingdom of God on earth not simply in the heavens.

Good reminders for me to seek less the understanding of the mystery, and to seek more how God's mysterious and powerful Spirit works in us -- through the holy in each of us -- that sacred essence in each of us as part of creation. The mystery that is truly discovered and understood through our care, compassion, and love for one another.



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