The “Great American Eclipse,” as some are calling it, is almost upon us. Here’s some data to help you observe the eclipse from our area:
9:03 AM - The beginning moment of the eclipse
10:16 AM - The maximum eclipse.
11:36 AM. The end moment of the eclipse
Since we are not located in the “path of totality,” meaning that we will not see a total eclipse, but rather a partial eclipse (94%), at no time should anyone look directly at the sun. So, as a basic public service, we are making available certified solar glasses at the end of the Masses so you can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. The event as a whole will last, roughly, two-and-a-half hours. So, there will be plenty of time to observe.
Okay, so one might ask, what’s all the hype about? Simply, the beauty of creation, particularly the heavens, declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:2). Did you know that the Church has been engaged in science since its earliest developments, and indeed, is responsible for the very scientific method we all use? Astronomy, in particular, has been of particular interest to the Church in order to know the seasons of the year and liturgical events like Easter. The Vatican opened its first observatory in 1891, placing it among the oldest astronomical institutes in the world (vaticanobservatory.va).
In the Scriptures, “celestial” events have been signs of the works and presence of God. Some Christians and non-Christians have chosen only to focus on the foreboding events such as the eclipse that occurred at the crucifixion. But, as Catholics, we also recognize that the beauty of the created world gives us a foreshadowing of heaven and a glimpse about the works of God. This weekend’s reading from 1 Kings 19:9A, 11-13A , is instructional. In the text, we can hear that God and nature are not the same thing, as a pantheist would propose. Instead, we heard how nature reflects something about God. In this week’s reading, we heard about Elijah encountered God. The LORD was not in the wind, earthquake, nor fire, three common elements as understood by antiquity. Yet, these events signaled the LORD’s coming presence. In the end, Elijah experienced God speaking in a tiny whispering sound. Elsewhere in the Scriptures, God was understood to be announced by the sun in Matthew 17: 2 and clouds covering the tent and filling the tabernacle during the Israelites journey in the desert in Exodus 40:34. The power of God to forgive sin metaphorically is described via an eclipse in Sirach 17:31. Encouragement to have no “fear of the signs in the heavens” can be found in Jeremiah 10:2. The stars served as a sign of promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:5, and my favorite Psalm 19:2 solemnly says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
The eclipse that will fall across the United States on Aug. 21st is an amazing event for many reasons. Primarily for the general public, we will admire it for its sheer beauty. An eclipse is relatively unusual to the common person, though they happen every year somewhere on Earth. The phenomena surrounding an eclipse (darkness, crescent shadowing under trees, and birds trying to settle in for rest) remind us about the role the the sun and moon have in experience of life on Earth. For those inclined to things geeky, how amazing it is that the relative sizes and distances of both the moon and sun relative to the Earth are such that the moon can completely block the sun so that people can experience the beauty of a total eclipse. If the moon was any closer or father away, we would not experience a total eclipse. As it turns out, the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth. So eventually, the moon will be far enough away such that total eclipses will no longer happen. How amazing that we are alive at a very particular time in the history of Earth that we can observe total solar eclipses. God’s a pretty good planner, eh?
Finally, as a ministry to our community of faith, I have arranged the purchase of hundreds of solar glasses to be given away for free after the Masses this weekend (as supplies last) [REVISION: The shipment did not arrive in time for this weekend. But, it is scheduled for Monday and so we will have the solar glasses available for next weekend's Masses.] Please enjoy the eclipse in safety. While viewing, remember how awesome our God is. May this event be an opportunity to lift up our hearts in praise of the LORD’s handiwork.
Here’s a website to visit to learn more: greatamericaneclipse.com
Fr. William Holtzinger