On this the 25th day of December, tradition harkens us back to the Star of Bethlehem or the “Christmas Star” and with it, the Christian nexus to the miraculous Universe.
Over the past two thousand years, theologians refer to the Star of Prophecy marking the birth of Christ or the Messiah evidenced by three wise men, or ancient astronomers. Meanwhile, modern-day astronomers have hypothesized that the Christmas Star may have actually been a star nova, a planet, a comet, an occultation, or a gathering of the planets in an unusual conjunction. Some history scholars have suggested the star was a mental construct created by the author of the Gospel of Matthew. Whatever the star, it illuminated the minds of men.
Ancient civilizations of the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans associated astronomical phenomena to terrestrial events – such as birth. There was popular belief two thousand years ago that the appearance of a new star symbolized a cosmic connection between the star and an individual on Earth. Modern day scientific evidence does, in-fact, link humanity to carbon “star stuff” spread throughout the vastness of the cosmos.
The most remarkable aspect of the link between religion and science is the fact that the Universe contains all the elements that comprise the human body and life on Earth traceable to the action of the stars. There is a real depth of feeling, when one can stand under a clear night sky to gaze upward in the realization that we are such a very small part of the Universe, here on Earth. Moreover, the spiritual feeling comes upon the recognition and acknowledgment that the Universe is actually within us.
Modern day cosmologists are now disclosing just how miraculous, significant, and bewildering the Universe is, as we understand it today, circa 2010 AD. Three hundred sextillion stars and trillions of Earth-like planets populate the Universe, or so estimates the extrapolation of cosmologists. If you are having a hard time wrapping your brain around a number like 300 sextillion (or a 3 followed by 23 zeros), imagine multiplying 3 trillion by 100 billion. On the other hand, just go ahead and consider it numerous beyond comprehension as humankind seeks to understand the scope of intergalactic creation.
Catholic theologians and Vatican astronomers are giving credence and acceptance to the possibility that life may exist elsewhere in the vast expanse of stars and planets that populate the Universe. A Universe has been accepted by theologians as having stars and planets in greater number than every grain of sand on every known beach on Earth. The vastness of the Universe and the meaning of cosmic time are exceedingly greater than our general human ability to comprehend.
The convergence of traditional religion and that of modern science is being reconciled nonetheless. Humanity, Earth, or our star, the Sun, are no longer accepted as the center of the Universe in religious doctrine. Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Nicolaus Copernicus have been redeemed by church clergy. As humanity comes to know more of God’s creation, our religious institutions will adapt our human interpretations and correct our erroneous mental constructs. Understanding nature does not demean God or creation, quite the opposite. Science honors creation with greater understanding of the vastness of time and space in its simplicity and simultaneous complexity.
Humankind now seeks to understand the Universe and the very moment of cosmic creation, perhaps even pre-creation. Astrophysicists are seeking to recreate subatomic particles known as anti-matter and Higgs boson from the start of theoretical time or “The Big Bang” — in multi-billion dollar experiments in Geneva, Switzerland. Today scientific theorists are taking us into the pre-Big Bang era through notions of the multiverse, or the detected echo of multiple stellar big bangs, as suggested by Sir Roger Penrose.
The completely theoretical concept of subatomic vibrating energy structures comprising a space fabric symphony, known as SuperString Theory, provides the epiphany to our universal connectivity and spirituality. Human sapience, our intelligent cognitive presence over the last two thousand years, is about the deeper understanding of the dimensions of nature; and, how we interrelate to the whole through potential vibrating cosmic energy. Many have faith in string theory.
The Star of Prophecy provides us the symbolic opportunity to contemplate our depth of awareness and reach beyond the superficial events and current circumstances. It is appropriate to pause, ponder our presence, and become what George Bernard Shaw once called “a force of nature.” As we become more aware of the dynamic universe, we become more aware of emerging beyond one’s preconceptions and historical ways of making sense. We become a new being in nature with a slightly greater presence.
The God of Creation empowered humanity with the gift to learn to see, to evolve into new eras of awareness, and spontaneously integrate science, spirituality, and the practice of leadership. Sometimes our human mortality constrains our ability to think about a future we have either denied or ignored. Most of us simply recognize we are short-lived and don’t have the time to waste pondering our presence in the Universe and the relationship we have to it. Of all days, Christmas Day is a time to take a few moments to contemplate our spiritual presence in the Universe.
The ancient theologians were, as the modern day cosmologists and astrophysicists are, connected to the stars. Whenever we pause to glimpse upon the night sky, we generally accept it as a two-dimensional reality, a black blanket covered with jewel-like twinkling lights. Nonetheless, this is the season on which to suspend our daily routine to seek to understand what we see in both faith and science.
When we really begin to understand what we see, suspending the taken-for-granted ways of seeing the world, what we start to see may be disorienting, disturbing, filling us with strong emotions; therefore, we rarely give ourselves permission to talk openly about the connections between our free spiritual side and our more disciplined day-to-day side.
We take delight in this day when our young children detach from the bonds of reality to think of a Santa on his sleigh spreading goodwill and gifts all about. Nonetheless, as adults, we must re-learn how to dissolve into a detached observer to begin to understand and contemplate the whole of the natural Universe with our hearts and minds, in child-like fascination. Modern day society has set us upon a path of not seeing the world as it is but as we are among indoctrinated civilizations. We locate at points with sometimes-restricted views of our world and universe limited by our circumstance.
It is my faith that The Star of Bethlehem shines and continues to illuminate our minds. The dogma of both science and religion are in a state of evolution in human interpretation. The transcendent moments of the spiritual experience will allow most of us to connect the logical rigor of science with the hopes, dreams and goodwill associated with religion. Religious faith may accept science as a creation of God to enable us to make a spiritual transition without the excommunication of scientific inquiry and knowledge. Acceptance of the nexus of science and religion in harmony is the first step to embrace the miraculous, as set forth in the Gospel of Matthew, and by the very description of the three wise men.