Tag Archives: science
I’m getting better at saving snippets that might come in for the blog. I found this a month ago: a Tablet* report on Pius XI responding to a lecture on Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.
” The thought rising in our mind in beholding these two great Saints is that in certain things they are capable of imitation. We see the never satisfied, indefatigable, almost infinite care of Saint Augustine in his continual revision of his writings, reading, re-reading the works he had written, reviewing, correcting and perfecting them with a diligence verily heroic, offering in such a way the admirable conjunction of unequalled care in the most minute details, with a study which mounted to the heights of genius. We mark the same thing in Saint Thomas, and we recall with pleasure the days when we were librarian at Milan and at the Vatican, and recall the autograph kept there of Saint Thomas in which we see the most precise care even of the writing itself. We see a scrupulous fidelity to the rules of writing, with the greatest care not to disturb the clearness of the writing. And [we] see the most exquisite asceticism nourished by the most solid theology. That is how truly these two giants of study may be imitated. Study and piety, diligent fruitful study, true, profound and solid piety. Study demands from piety the divine recompense which it alone can give, piety demands from study the splendours of knowledge.
” Study and piety, these two must never be forgotten by our beloved sons, who … must have in them that which was manifested in these two great souls—the identification of study and piety—of science and charity.”
Cut through the flowery language and Pope Pius is saying something important. Prayer and study depend on each other, as do science and love. Now there’s a thought. Precise care is a mark of science as it is of theology: what’s the quarrel about?
*10/5/30 The TABLET 10 May, 1930, p623.
The cross shines into the stable in Blake’s Nativity
There is something ridiculous from a human point of view about the whole Christian story. It’s not as though we need Richard Dawkins to point that out to us. Saint Paul got there first and what he says about Christ crucified applies equally to Christ new-born:
We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Over at the Vatican Observatory website, Fr James Kurzynski has been grappling with new research that suggests there are two trillion galaxies – galaxies, not stars – in the Universe. He concludes with these words:
According to the definition of the Sacred Name, God IS, God’s understanding of creation is not limited to the musing of the human person. Therefore, it very well might be that to God every microorganism is a universe and every universe is a microorganism. The God who Is, the God who is Being, can at the same time be present to the grandeur of the totality of all creation, both known and unknown, seen and unseen, while at the same time be present to the smallest singularity in which the potential of a two trillion galaxy universe resides. In short, God transcends our limited language of small and big, helping us understand that the God who brought all things into existence is also aware of the smallest of things in existence, even, to quote Scripture, the hairs on our head and the sparrows of the sky.
Reflection: How do you perceive your place in God’s creation? Does it fill you with awe and wonder or do you feel a bit deflated, feeling small and insignificant? In [this] season, let us remember that we believe in a God who both brought into existence an unthinkably big creation, but also entered into our smallness in the womb of Mary. And may we open our hearts to God [at] Christmas and allow God’s infinite love to enliven our soul through the intimacy of Christ’s love for us and the stirrings of the Holy Spirit.
Do find time over the next few days to read Fr Kurzynski’s essay in full HERE.
Did you ever wonder why Herod did not notice the Star of Bethlehem? Me neither, but perhaps we ought to have done! Enjoy a little science with your Christmas this year: even if you are not among the astro-nerds!
Christopher M. Graney suggests the Magi were astro-nerds; I wonder how long before that expression appears in a translation of Matthew chapter 2?
Eleven times in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles the scholars record comets in the sky – including the year 1066, when it was interpreted as signalling the Norman invasion. Small wonder that many people have tried to establish that the Star of Bethlehem was a comet, and that the appearance of one or other comet around 1AD could help date Jesus’ birth more accurately.
We’ll not go there!
But the Vatican Observatory website tells us that at least three comets will be visible, perhaps to the naked eye as well as telescopes, during 2017 -2018. they may be giant snowballs rather than stars, but are stars of wonder to most of us. I’m hoping to see at least one of them. Where are the dark skies round here? Not an easy question to answer.
We need not fear the darkness of night for
The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. Isaiah 9.2
This comet I did see! Hale Bopp, photographed by NASA.
Today is the Memorial of Saint Martin De Porres. (Dominican Religious)
Scripture readings: St. Paul to the Philippians 3:3-8; Psalm 104; Luke 15: 1- 10.
St Paul says writes: “Because of Christ, I have come to consider all the advantages that I had as disadvantages.” Paul had everything and every qualification as a Roman citizen. He was fastidious in keeping the Law of the Jews but something was lacking. He did not know Christ. When Christ was revealed to him, he gave up everything to preach the Kingdom of God.
The same thing could be said of St. Martin De Porres. As a young man, he learnt the profession of a dispenser of medicine. He was comfortable in life. But he found something was lacking in his life as well. He then joined the Dominican Order and used his skill to work for the poor for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven.
Today, in my comfort and advantageous life, what am I doing for Christ? I can do something where I am no matter how small it might be. Even if it means looking at someone on the street with MERCY. What am I giving away for the sake of Christ? What am I considering as disadvantage for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ? It is possible for any of us to make a U-turn back to God. Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke 15:1-10 that ‘”there is joy among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.”’
Angel by CD
Recently Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University was speculating that there might be ‘multiverses’; universes where the laws of nature vary from what we experience. How would we ever know about such a cosmos? It’s hardly a case of Professor Cox imagines – or I imagine – therefore it is.
There’s a simple-minded side of me that says – angels! They obey different laws of nature, but some people, sometimes, are aware of them: Mary, Zechariah, William Blake.
John Masefield gives these lines to the Magi in The Coming of Christ:
The days are past when rocks and streams
And trees were gods directing man,
We are all lost among our dreams,
We are all waters without plan.
The world is ours with discontent,
We have all things save hope; we stare
Into earth’s secrets: we invent
New swiftnesses lest we despair.
Yet we have joy, because we may
Still light upon that simple thing
Under the eyes of every day
Which is the secret of the King.
O lighten us, bright star, and show
The angels walking at our side,
And where the glittering waters go,
The lasting waters that abide.
Fitting prayer for Angeltide, these days when we hold their feasts, and for Francistide, for he reminds us that rocks and streams are brothers and sisters to us, not gods, under the eye of the King. And there is no need to believe in multiverses, or even pure spirits, to see the angel beside us in our spouses, workmates, or those we greet in the street: any of these could be a messenger of the King today.
The next three days’ posts are responses to William Blake’s visions of angels, by Dr Naomi Billingsley, a respected Blake Scholar and currently Bishop Otter Scholar at Chichester.
Like this tree, half-felled
by storm-wind, let my soul be
split, but not destroyed – see –
boughs, like ballet arms extending,
arch as if intending still more –
this severance allows for greater bending:
wind that wrecked has shaped
a back a neck a head –
once upright, whole, now torn –
another perfection’s born:
a tangled, sweeping reverence.
bowing to unlikely providence
that wrought this dread marvel
of fiat form.
A hidden flaw at core, no doubt,
gave grip for wind to wring
this grace like water out,
cracking this tough, this sheer,
this rigid thing –
new beauty spilt:
Science needs surprises –
Rule, pattern, type
don’t always please your God –
he’s not that kind of deity.
the good’s not always
in what’s done rightly.
Let my soul, half-felled,
be like this tree.
Over at the Vatican Observatory Website, Fr James Kurzynski links Mother Teresa’s shoes, church architecture, the Eucharist and an astronomer’s view of creation.
He reminds me of a Welsh astronomer, poet and theologian, Henry Vaughan, who mused on the saints:
NASA photo showing the Milky Way
We continue with Henry Vaughan:
If a star were confin’d into a tomb,
Her captive flames must needs burn there;
But when the hand that lock’d her up gives room,
She’ll shine through all the sphere.
O Father of eternal life, and all
Created glories under Thee!
Resume Thy spirit from this world of thrall
Into true liberty.
Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
My perspective still as they pass:
Or else remove me hence unto that hill
Where I shall need no glass.
I cannot help but think of Therese and John of the Cross, reading the lines: ‘If a star were confin’d into a tomb, Her captive flames must needs burn there.’ John’s prison cell and even Therese’s Carmel must seem like prisons to some of us. I’ve certainly had moments when I’ve just had to escape from certain rooms and get out of doors. I believe it may have something to do with the harsh artificial light in there. And Traveller friends have described feeling oppressed even by spending too much time indoors in friendly places.
But Therese and John still burned in their confinement, and shine through this sphere today, enlightening many with their wisdom. We can pray for God to disperse the mists that fill our lenses – Vaughan is surely peering through a telescope as the words come into his mind. And we can look forward to the city on a hilltop where we will live by the light of the Lord God.
I hope the stars will still be there!