A Starry Sky

One of the joys of living in rural Herefordshire is the beauty of the night sky. We don’t have street lights — or many houses, come to that. Step outside the door on a clear night and the sky is velvety black, studded with silver. Stars I could never see in Oxfordshire are here visible with a brilliance and definition that make one gasp. It reminds me of an evening in Cambridge during one of the power-cuts of the 1970s when I cycled down Castle Hill and saw the whole city spread out in the moonlight, rather as I imagine Newton must have seen it: soft and shadowy, quivering with a life it did not possess during the daytime.

Night transforms many things. Fears may grow, but the mind often sees with a clarity it lacks at other times. Distractions fall away. It is the time of sleep, of abandonment, of trust. In the monastic tradition, it is also a privileged time of prayer, of keeping vigil while others sleep, a time for God alone.

Looking up at the night sky and seeing the promise made to Abraham glittering from every corner, one can but marvel. We are so very small, the universe so very great, and there are worlds beyond worlds we have no knowledge of, yet God holds all things in being — not as a remote and indifferent spirit but as a Father, intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. The beauty we see is a reflection of his unseen Beauty. As Hopkins said,

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.


3 thoughts on “A Starry Sky”

  1. I remember being amazed by the stars when I was in the NW Highlands of Scotland. They were huge and so “low” it felt as if one could reach out and touch. “When I consider the heavens the work of your hand…what is man…and yet…”

  2. I went to the Planetarium at the Thinktank in Birmingham on an educational trip with some friends. It was a spiritual experience I hadn’t prepared for. If ‘awesome’ is a big enough word, that’s what it was.

    I was very blessed by the visit, especially as I had been treated to a ticket.

    I felt so small, and not at the same time because when I came out I noticed that some of the adults were choked by the experience too. It makes the microscopic world seem even more miraculous. Sand grains are beautiful and the individual working components of a living cell are confounding. So minute, perfectly engineered, and yet bigger than the imagination of the greatest of scientists. It’s all so mind boggling. (I think that, in that context, God ridicules man’s understanding of science)

    In this vast universe, what are we that God holds a special place for us ? It’s still a relevant question, even today.

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