Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When the Moon says Nothing

Yesterday the newspaper had a blurb about the full lunar eclipse that was going on this morning, and I can't remember ever seeing one before, so despite reading Merton until the wee hours, I set my alarm for 4:30 so I could watch it. I woke up and looked out my window; I could just barely get the right angle to see the moon, and by that time it was about halfway into the eclipse. There was a rather ghostly sort of halo around it, but by the time I drove out to Forest Park to have a clearer line of sight, it was nearly fully eclipsed, and the halo was gone. Nevertheless, it was still a marvelous sight, elegant in its simplicity, and I sat for about half an hour and just watched it. As the saying goes, "When the wise man points at the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger." It made me realize, though, that the final eclipsed state of affairs, while beautiful, wasn't anything flashy or 180 degrees away from the norm, like a solar eclipse or something -- the normal moon is just as spellbinding, so why don't I ever go out to watch it during its normal wax and wane...?

This afternoon was the first meeting of my class on Thomas Merton, and of course I was on high alert all day, reading as much as I could cram into the afternoon, as if those few pages would save me from what would otherwise be a disaster. Fr. Hellmann (the department chair) told me yesterday that he would love if this class could become a regular feature, and of course I thought, "YOU'D love it?!?" It's just silly how many people have done so much to enable me to do all this, from being a Brother of the Sacred Heart in the first place, to being at SLU, to being allowed to teach this class. Seven people actually showed up today, which is fine, but I am learning to assume nothing about final numbers -- it could go up or down for some time now. As circumstances had it, I opened a book of Merton's nature writings (called When the Trees Say Nothing), just at random, and I found a little thing on a lunar eclipse he observed, presumably from his hermitage. Since I have been planning to read a prayer or poem or journal entry by Merton before every class anyway, I figured this one would do. I quote it here in part: "The moon was beautiful, dimly red, like a globe of almost transparent amber...It hung there between two tall pines, silent, unexplained, small, with a modest suggestion of bloodiness, an omen without fierceness and without comment, pure." Oh God, let my words this semester be heavy with the silence that makes that kind of reality present! Mercy within mercy within mercy...

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