This is the first in a series of entries I wrote in a journal during a silent retreat I went on to Boston, Virginia. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s because it’s scarcely populated. In fact, if you look it up on Google maps, it appears to be just a big road. Don’t let it trick you, though. It’s an amazing retreat house, a breathtakingly beautiful area, and a great place to meditate and pray. I went in mid-February, and had basically neglected these notes upon my return. I decided that they would be a good jumping-off point to discuss some of the faith issues which I think are important. Anyways, here’s the entry I wrote from the first full day of the retreat:
Man made this glorious Manor – huge, a testament to modernity and comfort. But God made the sun, the river, and the mountains outside, and beside those, this is a small stone box, a speck too small for a mountain to notice. If I don’t leave here with a new (to me) theological insight, I at least want to leave with a deeper appreciation of the grandeur and size of God.
Seeing the stars last night, stars I hadn’t seen in years, if ever, I thought, “that just goes on forever!” And the idea that each glowing speck was some massive ball of energy able to destroy me and Earth without even noticing it was impressive. The mountain range outside wouldn’t even be a speck to one of those specks.
But then I corrected myself: the universe doesn’t go on forever. It has boundaries, and a beginning and an end. The boundaries, physical and temporal, are vast, and no man can approach them, but they exist.
While the simple, or uneducated, or narrow-minded imagine a brief and tiny universe, the poets and dreamers and skeptics imagine a boundless universe. Both are wrong. Just as this mansion is a speck to the mountains, and the mountains a speck to a star, and a star a speck to the universe, the universe is but a speck to the unbound God.
We listened to Pope Benedict XVI at lunch today, and he talked about the cruficix(tion). He said, “people ask how there can be faith after Auschwitz, but the Cross pre-empts this. This was the most barbaric death imaginable in antiquity, too gruesome for a Roman to suffer.”* Yet on the Cross, looking down, is pure Goodness, the all-powerful God seemingly helpless due to His Love for us. And that, I think, is more awesome than God Unbounded – God Nailed to a Tree.
*this is why Paul was beheaded, while Peter was crucified upside-down. (ed: yes, I had an asterixed footnote in my journal entry. And to clarify, the distinction is that Paul was a Roman citizen – see Acts 22:27-28).