What Can the Solar Eclipse Teach Us About God?
Dave, SP staff in Long Beach, California, traveled with his family to watch the complete solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. He reflected on what the sun being eclipsed by the moon could tell us about God's character:
We had the great pleasure of being able to travel up to Lebanon, Oregon to watch God “blow out the candle” last Monday for my 49th birthday! The total solar eclipse was spectacular and wonderful! I’m so glad I got to experience it. I fully anticipated the darkness that fell once we entered the moon’s shadow, but one thing that surprised me, that I had not really thought about beforehand, was how quickly and how far the temperature also dropped in that moment. I quickly went from comfortable and warm to goosebumps, almost shivering. Some in our group quickly put on coats and sweaters. This spurred me to think of how everything living on the earth utterly depends on the light and heat of the sun to survive. Obscure the sun even partially and momentarily, and the energy that gives and sustains life is immediately disrupted and diminished.
In this regard, I thought about the Canticle of the Sun, in which St. Francis of Assisi draws a comparison between God, and the sun:
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,Especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day;And you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Because the sun is glorious and radiant, and gives light and warmth, and because we depend upon it for our very survival, it bears the likeness of God, who also is glorious and radiant, the source and sustenance of our very lives! May we not allow anything in creation or in ourselves to ever “eclipse” or obscure from our view the MOST HIGH GOD, on whom our very lives depend! Amen!
I also thought about Psalm 19, which begins with the Psalmist asserting, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (19:1). The psalmist then continues with a meditation upon the sun:
In them [the heavens] he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.Its rising is from the end of the heavens,And its circuit to the end of them,And there is nothing hidden from its heat. (19:4-6)
Remember that the Psalmist began by saying that the heavens (including the sun) declare God’s glory. I understand the psalmist to mean that if the sun, a mere created thing, is so brilliant, powerful, beautiful, and unfailing, then the God who created it must be brilliant, powerful, beautiful, and unfailing as well, and even more so than the sun, a mere creature! And, if the sun searches out every nook and cranny on the face of the earth with its intense heat, so that nothing can hide from it, then nothing on earth is hidden from the God who made the sun, either!
God searches human heart. He sees our thoughts and intentions and assumptions and self-justifications. No wonder the psalmist concludes the psalm with a prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer!” (verse 14) Hebrews 4:13 says that “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” The sun never remains eclipsed for very long (at the most a few minutes), and that is yet another way the sun bears the likeness of God, from whom none of us can ultimately hide! May our thoughts and words and actions always be acceptable in his sight!