Sunday thoughts: September 2018

By Monsignor John Devine

The Isle of Man is one of the best places in western Europe to view the night sky. It was here that 'RCW 38' was pictured in the newspapers a few weeks ago. Not much of a name, but infra-red technology has enabled a detailed photograph to be taken of a star cluster over 5,500 light years away. Using current space technology such as the Voyager spacecraft, it would take 18,449 years to travel one light year. To travel 5,500 light years to reach this new star cluster would take a staggering 101 million years.

It was only around 500 years ago that somebody first challenged the assumption that the Earth was the centre of the universe and that it was created some six thousand years ago. There is only one response to the successive discoveries that stretch our understanding of the vastness of the universe:

'O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the Universe displayed. Then sings my soul my Saviour God to Thee, How great thou art, How great Thou art!'

This is a modern hymn yet, until the last century, in the days before light pollution, our forebears were more conscious of the night sky than we are. I can just make out the Plough and Taurus. Yet although the people of the Hebrew Bible lacked the telescopes and technology to capture the vastness of the universe, they still saw it as evidence of the greatness of God. And they marvelled at the powerful Creator God's loving care for each unique individual.

'When I see the heavens the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him.' (Psalm 8)