Star of wonder
On this day of Epiphany when Christians commemorate the arrival of the star-following Magi to the child of light, we witness in awe the James Webb Space Telescope hurtling out into the space on its nearly one-million mile journey to follow the same stars.
I cannot resist reflecting on the happenstance of these two journeys, ancient and modern, each arising out of the same impulse to see, know, and understand our beginnings and our future. We humans today, with the same sense of wonder as the Magi, are still following the stars: Still trying to understand the origins of cosmos, make sense of our place within it, unite with the divine, and believe that we are made both of star stuff and God stuff.
The Webb telescope is destined to observe every phase of cosmic history, from within our solar system to the most distant galaxies in the early universe of 13.5 billion years ago, when the first stars and galaxies formed — a distance of time and space the mind cannot grasp.
The Magi of old and the astronomers of today share a timeless bond: Each, in their time and in their own way, were and are witnessing the glory of God and the cosmos from which we and all sentient beings are part and particle.
No less than the Magi and the scientists we, too, now witness the birth of the child and the birth of the universe in wonder, believing in the endless birth and re-birth of the universe and humankind. “Wonder” is not a thing. We do not receive wonder from the material world around us. Wonder, as I have experienced it in my life, arises from within the soul, what I call God’s dwelling place. Wonder is an innate feeling, an impulse, intangible but real, unknowable but known, a deeply religious feeling.
Wonder is a sense of curiosity about everything, the grandeur of creation as well as the wonder in the moments of the everyday. Wonder is an openness to be surprised, to be delighted, to be challenged, to be in awe. Wonder animates all exploration, whether religious or scientific.
Wonder is a spiritual practice, too. It can be cultivated, deepened, and rooted deep in our hearts and minds. Wonder is a prayer, a feeling of awe, and a joy in our living and being.
So how might you and I make wonder a spiritual practice? Simply ask the question, “What am I experiencing today that is full of wonder?” Small things and big things, no matter: Wonder is an orientation of the heart, a curiosity of spirit, and an openness of the mind. It can even be a feeling or sensation in the body or the voice of the soul if we are well attuned.
Here’s a wonder practice for this time of Epiphany: Taking our cue from the Wise Men and the astronomers, we might pause and gaze into the night sky, looking in wonder at the vastness above, and feeling ourselves at one with the emerging and expanding universe — knowing that the spirit of wonder is ours today as it was with the ancient ones.
May our wonder never cease.
Image: "Deep Space," Deposit Photos stock photos