Seeing God in the Eclipse

Solar eclipses point to God and His magnificence, if we have eyes to see.

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The Day has arrived. The Great 2024 North American Solar Eclipse occurs today, and weather permitting, millions of observers in the path of totality are in for some amazing heavenly sights.

While many are excited about this celestial event, the Eclipse has also sparked apocalyptic talk among many Christians, including not a few Catholics (who should know better). Some are saying it’s the sign of a new war, or perhaps the End Times, with the Eclipse kicking off the Three Days of Darkness.

Others are tying it to the document to be released today on human dignity by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), suggesting that the Eclipse is a sign of disapproval from heaven.

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That’s all nonsense. Solar eclipses happen all the time; on average, there’s a solar eclipse somewhere on earth every 18 months. True, eclipses recurring in a specific place are far more rare, happening only about once every 400 years, but it’s highly America-centric to think this particular eclipse has a special meaning all the others do not have.

Yet this Eclipse does point to God and His magnificence, if we have eyes to see (speaking of which, be sure to wear eclipse glasses if you want to look directly at the sun before or after totality). St. Paul tells us that “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). Like all of Creation, this Eclipse tells us something about the Creator, namely, that He delights in amazing us by His Divine Creativity. Like all of Creation, this Eclipse tells us something about the Creator, namely, that He delights in amazing us by His Divine Creativity.Tweet This

Consider a full solar eclipse, when from certain vantage points on earth the moon exactly blocks the totality of the sun, darkening the skies and making the sun “disappear” except for its corona (the super-heated outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, which is only viewable by human eyes during an eclipse). I noted above that a solar eclipse isn’t uncommon on earth, but it’s incredibly uncommon within our solar system. In fact, earth is the only planet in our solar system (including Pluto!) that experiences full solar eclipses.

The uniqueness of solar eclipses on earth is due to two seemingly random factors. First, the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon. Second, the sun is also about 400 times further away from the earth than the moon is from the earth. Because of this coincidence, the moon appears to our eyes as approximately the same size in the sky as the sun, which means it covers the sun during an eclipse. No other planet has this direct proportion between the sun and one of its moons.

I called this “random” and a “coincidence,” but I don’t really believe that. I think these celestial bodies were intentionally designed this way by the Great Designer for our enjoyment and enlightenment. People who have experienced solar eclipses first-hand often report that it is a spiritual experience. This unfortunately can at times have New Age connotations, but properly understood, an eclipse can be a legitimate spiritual experience, because it reveals our smallness in the face of the universe and the greatness of the One who designed it for us. As Albert Einstein said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,” and the “coincidence” of the size and distance of the sun and moon has God’s handwriting all over it.

The orderly nature of all eclipses also points to God. Typically, one of the first questions a child asks when told an eclipse is coming up is, “How do we know?” It’s a good question: how is it that there are websites that show exactly when and where—down to the minute and meter—an eclipse will happen? That’s not good guesswork; it’s due to the orderly, even mathematical, nature of God’s creation.

An orderly universe is the fundamental assumption of science. In fact, if the universe is not ordered, all of science is meaningless. If I run a controlled experiment twice with the exact same parameters, then it will always, without exception, give the same result. In fact, I know with certainty that if the results differ, then at least one parameter was different. This assumption points to an order in the universe, an order that did not happen by chance, but by design.

Celestial bodies are bound by the orderly laws of gravity: smaller bodies are attracted to larger bodies and thus the earth revolves around the sun and the moon revolves around the earth. This is what leads to eclipses. These revolutions are precisely ordered and even elegant. Isaac Newton found that the gravitational attraction force between two point masses is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their separation distance. From a mathematical perspective, this is amazing—there’s no reason gravitation has to work in such a simply-defined manner. Yet it does, again pointing to a Great Designer.

Beyond the elegance and beauty of all eclipses, the April 8th Eclipse has another “coincidence” built into it for those who experience it. Due to March 25th having fallen during Holy Week, the Feast of the Annunciation this year was moved to today. This means that when many of us will be “overshadowed” by the Eclipse, we will be celebrating Mary’s overshadowing by the power of the Most High (Luke 1:35). While I wouldn’t give this congruence a deep theological or eschatological meaning, we can still think of it as one of God’s “anonymous” gifts.

All celestial activity, including solar eclipses, lead some to believe that man is insignificant compared to the universe. Atheists like to note that the earth is simply a pale blue dot in the expansive universe, less significant than a single grain of sand on a massive beach. But they see things backward. The truth is that the universe, with its trillions of galaxies each containing trillions of stars and with planets beyond counting, is itself insignificant compared to the Almighty God. Yet this same God takes a personal interest in each and every one of us. The vastness of the universe demonstrates not only God’s power and immensity, but also His love for us.

Today, if you are fortunate enough to view the Eclipse in totality, remember that God created the Sun, the moon, the earth, and all of the universe to reveal to us His majesty. Viewed in that way, this Eclipse will be a true “apokálypsis,” or uncovering, of our Creator.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

Author

  • Eric Sammons

    Eric Sammons is the editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine.

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