It is widely accepted in the scientific community that the universe began 13.7 billion years ago with a massive, colossal, gigantic explosion called “The Big Bang.” At this moment all matter came into being. This means that everything that was, is, and will be traces itself back to this moment. I should mention, however, that the term “Big Bang” is misleading. The beginning of the universe was not so much an explosion as it was (and continues to be) an expansion.
The Irish priest and social psychologist, Diarmuid O’Murch, describes the Big Bang as “a wonderful…proliferation of possibility, deserving remembrance.” Writer William Cleary suggests that we commemorate this event annually. After all we celebrate Earth Day every April 22. On that day we give thanks for our beautiful planet and we focus our attention on environmental issues. But earth is only a small part of our complete history. In that primordial expansion lies our true genesis. The atoms that form everything on earth—including each one of us—have their origin in “the Big Bang.” As astronomer Carl Sagan was fond of saying, “We are all made of star dust.”
In celebrating Universe Day we would give thanks for all of creation–not only for our earth, but for our solar system, galaxy, and the billions and billions and billions of stars and other worlds beyond our own. On Universe Day we believers would also give thanks for God’s Infinite Love which we believe brought everything into existence. We would give thanks for that Initial and Continual Expansion of Divine Love, that Primordial Gush of Infinite Creativity, that Passionate Inception of All that Is.
Some suggest that we celebrate this day on the summer solstice, that is, the longest day of the year. This year that’s June 21 in the northern hemisphere and December 21 in the southern. This day with the longest light is appropriate, for it recalls those opening words of God in the book of Genesis: “Let there be light!”
What are some practical ways we might celebrate Universe Day? We could: read more on the Big Bang, view pictures taken by the Hubble telescope (the pictures accompanying this reflection are all from the Hubble telescope), google “English Astronomie” and watch the 8 minute video on YouTube, gaze at the moon and the stars, reverence the atoms that make up our body, pray Psalm 8, listen to excerpts from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets Suite” (available on line), or compose a prayer giving thanks to God for all that is. Can you think of some other ways?
A celebration of Universe Day might help our efforts toward global unity. It would fuel our gratitude to God and/or to the Universe for all that exists. And it would increase our appreciation that anything exists at all!
Denise Levertov wrote a poem, “Primary Wonder,” that does just that. She begins by talking about the numerous problems and diversions that continuously “jostle” for her time and attention. But every now and then “the quiet mystery/is present to me.” What mystery? “the mystery that there is anything, anything at all,/ let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything/ rather than void and that, O Lord,/ Creator, Hallowed One, You still/ hour by hour sustain it.”
What do you think of celebrating Universe Day?
More images–this time not from a telescope but from a microscope:
PS: I will be facilitating a retreat this week for the Mercy Sisters at Sea Isle, NJ. Please pray for the retreatants and for me! Thank you!