Interlude: Even When He is Silent, performed by Cantus & Tove Ramlo-Ysted

Fall has arrived.  That lovely blanket of fog that brings us cool nights in the summer has subsided. Now, we’ll see the stars again.

Before my daughter’s academic schedule imposed, we used to escape to the desert in the fall and spring, taking long weekends to go jeeping.  Very quickly, we found that as fun as it was to explore the old mine trails in the daytime, we also loved to explore the inky black desert sky with our binoculars, or telescopes.  The countless stars — and nebulae and galaxies — the huge, glittering swath of the Milky Way — it was just beautiful.

My father is an amateur astronomer, and he flew out to join us a few times.  We’d stay up late into the night, sipping hot chocolate to keep warm, enjoying the quiet, with only an occasional “come look at this”, or a heads-up as some new celestial feature rose over the ridgeline, or a particular favorite was about to set over the opposite horizon.  It was cold, out in the desert, and sometimes a cloud would obscure the view, but all-in-all, it was definitely worth it.

You can do sidewalk astronomy in the suburbs, and share a comet or a planet with your neighbors, but the light noise hides much of the night sky’s splendor.  We’re lucky that between the Bay, and the nearby mountains, we have fairly dark skies for such a populated area. Still, there’s nothing quite like a dark sky out in the middle of nowhere, to get that feeling of infinity, the feeling that you are so small, and so inconsequential, compared to the vast, longevity of the stars.

Meditation is like star-gazing.   It’s best in a quiet place, but instead of using binoculars or telescopes, the rhythm of your breath and your mantra take you into deep space.  The first few chimes are like the planets and brightest stars, popping out as the sunset fades.  Moments pass, like the constellations, drifting across the sky.  Then the final chime: the night is over, the sunrise brightens the sky.

These days, when every news article seems to give me yet another reason to pray without ceasing, the constancy of the stars is a comfort, a visual manifestation of God that is always there.  God was there for the joys and fears and sorrows of our parents, grandparents, and ancestors, and will be for the generations who follow us. God is always there for us, even when He seems to be missing — like when the stars are covered by fog, or outshone by the Sun during the day.  But even in broad daylight a solar eclipse can remind us that the night sky is still there, even when we can’t see it.

Listen to these verses from the Old Testament:

The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven,
  a glittering array in the heights of the Lord.
On the orders of the Holy One they stand in their appointed places;
  they never relax in their watches.

[Ecclesiasticus 43.9-10]

As fall uncovers the beauty of the night sky here by the Bay, I hope that you all find its beauty an inspiration to your own meditation, enjoying your “watch”, your quiet time with God.  

Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on October 22, 2016.