I know a stop for a city dweller between Nobleford and Granum on secondary highway 519 in southern Alberta. Alberta has many such charming places because there on a moonless, cloudless night of light traffic away from sources of light pollution, a motorist can pull off the highway onto a side road, turn out the car headlights and stop the engine.
With due regard for the safety of self and others, such as the need to activate the hazard lights – or not – the motorist can step onto the turf and look skywards. There a precious surprise waits.
Most dwellers in the country know what to expect, but townies will gasp with delight at the display that they may have forgotten. They will gaze in awe at memory restored: the thousands of stars that make up the Milky Way. They will see planets too.
Such romantic travellers may muse "They're still there: Jupiter, Mars, Orion, the Big Dipper, Arcturus, the Pleiades. Thank heaven! I'd almost forgotten."
CNS PHOTO | COURTESY OF THE VATICAN MUSEUMS
Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1.24
The sight always fills me with wonder and renders me speechless. Unavoidably, I think of Him Who Made It All.
As I return to my car, cooled by the night air, humbled by a glimpse that I might have had of eternity, a search begins. Images come to mind: the God of the sweeping gesture in Michelangelo's portrayal of the creation of Adam, there in the Sistine Chapel so far away.
I think of the God of the Nicene Creed, rather summarily described as the "maker of heaven and earth." Accurate enough and succinct, but somehow short in catching the drama of the night sky.
Without presumption, we want to know God. Michelangelo's God the Father moves us and enters our memories where it often supplies our need for a ready image. If asked to describe God the Father, we might fall back on that image: an elderly man, with a greying, flowing beard.
But by this time in any search, we would recognize the inadequacy of our portrayal. We see the long-felt desire to express the nature of the Trinity in the words of the Creed with Jesus "seated at (his) right hand," with the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life – these revered and time-tested efforts to describe the indescribable.
The message in Paul's letter to the Corinthians in the Second Reading for this Sunday touches on our desire to picture God. However we pursue our search, the Jews for signs, the Greeks for wisdom, and we moderns for proof and evidence, St. Paul says, look at what you know.
He "proclaims Christ crucified . . . to those who are called both Jews and Greeks, (and those in ages to come) . . . Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
I narrated all of this ruminating to a friend and earned this comment, "I like your effort," he said without condescension.
"You have described a necessary Jesus."
(Ralph Himsl: firstname.lastname@example.org)