Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sanctifying grace

All month Venus and Jupiter have been blazing away in the dawn, Venus drawing ever closer to the red giant. On Friday the two planets will be about a half-degree apart, less than the angular width of the Moon -- the closest readily observable conjunction of the two planets since 2004 (the next in 2014). The crescent Moon will come this way a few days later, another sight well worth getting up for.

Venus is presently about six times brighter than Jupiter, far and away the brightest thing in the sky other than the Sun and Moon. It is getting fuller and smaller as it speeds away from us around the back side of the Sun. Meanwhile, in our own orbit, we are overtaking Jupiter, so the planet grows slightly in apparent size and brightness. Ah, what a merry dance.

My book to be published later this year is called When God Is Gone, Everything Is Holy (more about this later). "Holy," of course, only has meaning within the context of a human mind. We anoint the world with our attention. A conjunction of of two bright planets in a rosy dawn is a sacrament, a grace, a blessing. The world is shot through with a grandeur that now and again flames out "like shining from shook foil." In Catholic tradition, one must be predisposed to grace to receive it. We wait. Alert. Always. For the shining.