the Eclipse and the music of the spheres

Last Monday, like most people in the country, I donned my really dark glasses (courtesy of Ms. Annie Dimon) and looked at the sky.

What a beautiful spectacle God’s creation was providing! That’s what we talk about when, in Eucharistic Prayer C we say:

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of 
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, 
and this fragile earth, our island home. (BCP 370)

There are moments when the stars align. Perfect moments in which everything makes sense. When the universe speaks to us of things beyond our imagination. Monday was one of those perfect moments and we all could feel it, and nobody wanted to miss it. You and I, who will never fly on the Space Shuttle or walk on the moon, we got a glimpse of what the Elizabethans called the harmony of the spheres.

After watching the Eclipse and taking pictures and sharing some laughs with members of the congregation who gathered at church for the event, somebody joined me in my office and asked: “Is that all there is? I feel as if there should be more.” She sounded a little like Peter after Jesus’ Transfiguration up on top of the mountain: “Lord, It is good for us to stay here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here . . .” (Matt 17:4). Just like Peter, she didn’t want the excitement to end. After all, she had waited and prepared for it for weeks.

So then and there, Williams Wordsworth came to my mind. In the Preface to his Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth says that “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Wordsworth believed that the “mind {tries} to grasp at something towards which it can make approaches but which it is incapable of attaining.” And in trying to “grasp” at this sublime idea, the mind loses consciousness, and the spirit is able to grasp the sublime – but only temporarily.  After we experience a momentous event, after we “come down the mountaintop” you may say, we can recall the emotions we felt by searching within in the quiet, in the silence. Theologically speaking, after a powerful, transformative encounter with God (in worship, in service, in the stranger) we can recuperate the Holy Presence in quiet contemplation and prayer. 

I suggested to the person who asked that she go home and journal, or simply sit silently and contemplate the mystery of God’s creation and what a gift that was. I invited her to take the time now and then to look back to the eclipse and be reminded that we are a part of something bigger, more beautiful and profound. Something that goes beyond us. Something that is ageless and forever.

Poetry, impossibly blue lakes, fields of daffodils and the laughter of little children fill our hearts with gratitude, with joy, with wonder. We can bring all that to our prayer life to strengthen our relationship with the One who loved us first.


These beauteous forms, 
Through a long absence, have not been to me 
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye: 
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din 
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them, 
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, 
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; 
And passing even into my purer mind 
With tranquil restoration.
W. Wordsworth
Lines composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey