I was walking home and I looked up and saw the moon – and then I remembered …
The astronomical term for it is “opposition”. Mark Breen had been talking about this just several hours before on NPR’s “Night Sky“. It’s when the Sun, Earth, Moon and planets “line up”. On April 10 as dusk was becoming night, it was the Sun, Earth, Moon and Jupiter perfectly aligned so that from where I stood I could see the full Moon, and if the Moon is the center of the clock, at 1:00 O’Clock, glimmering faintly but distinctly, was Jupiter. “Perfectly aligned” actually means close enough to being in a straight line, but enough out of line so as not to hide one another.
Alter the configuration slightly and instead of seeing the full Moon you would have a lunar eclipse. Jupiter might disappear behind the Moon. To see this “oppositional event”, the Sun has to be “behind’ us – a relative concept when thinking about space – but not directly behind us in relation to the Moon, as this would result in that lunar eclipse.
I looked up and saw Jupiter! At its closest it is 365 million miles away; at its furthest – 601 million miles away. I stopped, awe-struck … and then a whispy cloud slowly shrouded the Moon. I watched as the Moon and distant planet faded in and out of sight. I recalled the words of Dick Van Dyke’s character in Mary Poppins, singing about sweeping chimneys, becoming suddenly introspective: “T’ween pavement and stars is the chimney sweep’s world… On the rooftops of London – coo, wha’ a sight!”
Indeed – what a sight. On the brink of Holy Week, I stood pondering the Sun, invisible to me so that I could see the milky glow of the Moon. What is it that stands behind me, beside me, and lives within me, fueling my life and joy and hope? The far-away planet seemed to be a distant longing – something I could faintly see, but seemed beyond reach. Still, I felt the beckoning within me for a world of peace, for justice and forgiveness. There was that Holy Week longing for resurrection, for the re-connection with those I have loved and lost. Will we ever get there? Just to arrive at Jupiter would take 600 days of constant travel – and if you planned to be travelling slow enough so as to be able to stop for a visit, the journey would take 2000 days.
Is life worth the struggle? Is the distant glimmer that beckons nothing more than a mirage? A figment of my spiritual imagination?
I so want for things to be perfectly aligned! But “perfect” is as relative to the human experience as “behind” is in the multi-dimensions of space. The cross makes no sense. The resurrection can be hard to believe. I have to trust the One behind it all, beneath it all, lovingly lurking within it all, lining up my life such that I am able to catch at least a passing glimpse of beauty, of hope and meaning.
For all the crooked lines of life, please God, let it be that Christ is risen. Let it be that Christ is risen, indeed.