When I look at the Heavens, the work of thy fingers,
The work moon and the stars which thou hast established;
What is man that thou art mindful of him,
And the son of man that thou dost care for him?
Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
And dost crown him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)
|The author's feet, Pine Point Beach, Maine, June 2014|
Yesterday morning at the beach with my family, enjoying some beautiful early summer weather, I was reminded of a hymn we sing at Mass sometimes: “There is a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea.” Standing on the edge of the ocean we can find its vastness overwhelming: we can feel very, very small in comparison. Sometimes when we look up at the heavens and think about the immensity of the universe , we can almost feel physically overwhelmed by it, as Edna St. Vincent Millay describes it in her poem “Renaissance”:
So here upon my back I’ll lie
And look my fill into the sky.
And so I looked, and, after all,
The sky was not so very tall.
The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
And – sure enough! – I see the top!
The sky I thought, is not so grand;
I ‘most could touch it with my hand!
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.
I screamed and – lo! – Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest,
Bent back my arm upon my breast . . .
How much more humbling than the vastness of creation is the infinite God who created it? How can we not feel absolutely insignificant by comparison? As I’ve said before, it’s not so much the existence of a creator-God that is so difficult for us to believe, it is that such a God could possibly even notice something as small as ourselves, much less love us.
That’s part of the wonder of the Incarnation, which we just celebrated this past Sunday in the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16): God put himself on our level (to the degree that he can), he gave us a human face to gaze on, and in taking on human form sanctified humanity. “If God is for us,” Saint Paul asks, “who is against us?” (Romans 8:31) It is Christ Incarnate that allows us to feel the boundless immensity of creation not as an infinite indifference swallowing us up without a second thought, but the embrace of infinite Love, because by lowering himself to become man, and by suffering and dying for us, Jesus showed us in the flesh that, truly, “God is Love”(1John 4:8).