Astronomically Speaking…

Face up, under the belly of my son’s car, my husband was elbow deep in a repair. Suddenly I leaned over the bumper and asked, “Hon, don’t you have one good adventure left in you? ”

That  was 9:00 Sunday evening, August 20th.

An hour later, my hubby came inside:  “Alright! You’ve got me,” he spouted.  “I guess I’ve one adventure left.  But, only one and we leave early as dog-dukers!”

That, my friends, is how we began the adventure to totality!  It was a quest to see the corona.  It was a journey skyward and westward.  It was a cosmological expedition that confirmed what we already knew and what we were yet to know.

Next morning at 7 am, we traversed the entirety of north metro Atlanta to access the 100% eclipse zone on the morning of August 21.  Now, that was an adventure in itself. With the help of a Spotify playlist, 3 1/2 hours later we arrived at the meadow of what was once Lake Hartwell.  This dehydrated field marks the border between Georgia and South Carolina and would be the perfect westward-facing location to view the sun and moon as they crossed paths.  It would also be in the bulls-eye, the 100% coverage zone.  We would have 2 minutes and 20 seconds to view the corona and just maybe, we would be lucky enough to see Bailey’s Beads.

Upon arrival, we gathered our ragged chairs, an umbrella and drinks and settled in for the spectacle not fully understanding  the magnitude of what we were to witness.   At about 1:10 pm, Anna broke open her solar shades and yelled, “Its starting!”

I fumbled in my backpack and found my own protective glasses.  After fidgeting a few seconds with the cardboard folds I managed to place them correctly over my eyes and look sunward.  Behold!  A large black sphere had entered the frame of the sun.  An Oreo-sized bite was missing from the right side.   OMG!  This is it!

Everyone got into place and some friends arrived.  We took measured glances at the advancing black moon covering the solar surface.  My camera came out.   Someone hummed “Black-Hole Sun.”

 

Ever so gradually, the light on that field reduced as the moon approached. Great white egrets flew across the darkened skies towards a dusky roost.  A  chorus of frogs started chirping their evening songs.   Dark shadows cast by human forms  were projected by the diminishing sun onto the dry lake floor.  The atmospheric color changed to sepia.

Then, it happened.  At first, there remained the tiniest sliver of sunlight.  Then, that the blackness slid over and the sun was blotted out of the sky!  The moon would have its say for the next 2 minutes 20 seconds.

Darkness and coolness settled over the field.

The protective glasses came off.

“The Corona!” someone blasted.

Comments ranged from “It’s a Corona, Extra Light!” to “Oh my Gosh!”,  “Wow!”  and finally,

“This is literally the most amazing thing I have ever seen!”

Then, at the mathematically appointed  millisecond, the sun’s rays literally burst forth on the other side.  In a flash, the lake bed was ablaze with light and color.

How do I describe an event so brief and surreal?  A time when  clouds, life and the sun seemed to stand still?

I cannot do it justice.  But, there is something I can surmise.

A collective, “what just happened?”  appeared on the faces of all present.

What just happened was that we became aware, at that brief moment, that we are actually on a giant sphere that is being orbited by a smaller sphere and together these two spheres are orbiting an even larger, blazing sphere.   Humans are absolutely minuscule in this whole process.  Yet, we are in the hands of God and He controls the sun, moon and stars.  It was a bizarre, yet comforting realization.

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”  Amos 8:9

Then, we packed this adventure up and went home through the traffic to our mundane lives, pondering what we had just witnessed.

 

Ben

by Angie Nasrallah

(part 3 in a series about Keeping our Young People in the Church) 

“What we love is what we orient our lives toward.   Christian liturgies shape our vision for the good life and aim our hearts towards God. ”  — The Areopagus podcast, “Are We Doing Youth Ministry Wrong?”

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:21

These words have me taking a deep breath!  As you know, I’ve been contemplating how to keep our young people in the faith.  We want our young people to treasure Christ and His church.

Benjamin is a young man who is thriving in the Church and is making a big decision to commit his life to prayer and service.  I want to share some of his story.

We’ve been  blessed to know Ben since he was just 11.  Already, he had a special twinkle in his eye, a spiritual awareness unlike other kids his age.   Ben always crossed himself when he ate even a bite of apple or sipped from a water bottle.  If you told him you weren’t feeling well, he would say, “Lord have mercy” and offer a prayer on the spot.   From his tall stature, dark features and  thick chestnut-colored pony tail, you can tell he’s part Cherokee.  But, mostly, he’s all-American boy!  At 21, he attends junior college and owns his own landscaping business.  Like many of us, he comes from a family recently converted to Orthodoxy.

Talking with Ben, he takes great care to listen and give his undivided attention and I think this is part of the reason he purposely doesn’t keep a smart phone.  I’m the one who is distracted and rushing things along.  Yet, Ben takes his time and this is a good lesson for me.   Last month, we sat on my back deck and talked about his upcoming plans to visit the Holy Mountain in Greece and then to enter the Hermitage of the Holy Cross Monastery in Wayne, West Virginia.

“What is it that draws you to the monastic life?” I asked peering out over my back yard.

“I’ve never liked change much,” he confided drinking from a glass of tap water.   “I enjoy standing and praying and I know that when I’m at the monastery I won’t have to change or shift gears every day.”

I nod.

Ben is spiritually wise.  I think I understand what he means.  Ben has oriented himself toward a life of prayer and Christ.  His compass is pointing straight toward the monastery, where he will pray for all of us his entire life.  What a sacrifice and what a calling!!

Growing up in a non- Orthodox home, I never understood the idea that God can call people into the Monastic life.  God gifts certain people with prayer and that gift overflows into those around them.  Ben’s father, Jimmy, credits Ben for bringing a consistent prayer routine into their home:  “He encouraged us to pray regularly! Then, it was his sister and the rest of us that were praying with Ben.”  So, as it happened,  Ben’s desire to pray positively impacted the whole house.

In talking with Ben and writing this post, I discovered something completely different than I thought I would:  Sometimes it’s our children that point us to Christ!  Our kids can help us get our bearings, but we have to be attentive.  A small child, frequently scared by bad dreams, may be asking to have regular evening prayers.  A teenager, apprehensive about the future may be asking for guidance on how to prepare.  How do we respond?  If we are brave enough, we can respond with the proper orientation.  We will make adjustments like setting aside time each night to pray with our kids, or we will encourage our young men to look to God for answers rather than relying on themselves.   We will establish Christian liturgies in our homes that become their hearts’ treasure.

Later in our conversation, I asked Ben what words of advice he had for young people.  I think he was surprised at this question.  “I’m not very wise myself,” he said.  But, a day later, he sent me this:

“Everyone in our society wants to be different.  But, what happens is that everyone ends up getting into the same temptations. All of us, though we want to be different, end up floating down the stream with all the other dead fish.  To be different truly, means to not just do whatever you feel  like doing, but to become like Christ; He is the only perfect and “different” one there is.  To be different in our world means to get up and do your morning prayers and prayers before you sleep, and to pray without ceasing between both!  Who does that in society after all? ”

Ben sent more, but these comments were enough to keep me busy for awhile.  Isn’t this struggle really about me and how I respond to God every day?   Looking at Ben and his life encourages me to be brave in the effort.

Just after Christmas, Ben will leave for the Hermitage of the Holy Cross!

Looking to Christ