Tuesday, August 22, 2017

In the Shadow of the Moon

Blow the trumpet at the new moon (Psalm 81:3). 

No one blew a trumpet for this New Moon. The Moon did it herself, as she put on a show of shows, covering up the Sun in an amazing spectacle of light and shadow. Since Knoxville was just outside the path of totality, the four of us drove down to the southernmost parish in our deanery - scheduled to be more than 2 minutes in Totality - to view the eclipse from there in all its amazing grandeur. We were not alone. We left in mid-morning, hoping to avoid getting snarled in traffic and so got to the city of Madisonville (2010 Population 4,577) around 11:00 which left us plenty of time to get some lunch in a crowded roadside restaurant with some of the other "eclipse tourists" who were swelling the town's population on this so memorable day. 

Then on to the church, where we met up with others we knew from other parishes around and others who had come from as far off as Mexico and Queens, NY, to experience this awesome spectacle. Children were playing games. People were cooking food in the parking lot and picnicking on the grass. It was a real party atmosphere. Everyone was friendly and hospitable, inviting others to share their food. I have never been to a "tailgate," but my guess is that this was a somewhat similar, but probably somewhat more relaxed experience. Nice too, of course, was having an air-conditioned church building to take refuge in from the heat! As I say almost everyday, "Thank God for air-conditioning!" After making a proper visit to the church itself upon arrival, I periodically retreated to other open parts of the building to sit down, cool off, and reflect upon what we were witnessing.

The first part of the eclipse went on for over an hour. The Moon bit more and more into the Sun, which itself as a result came more and more to resemble a kind of crescent moon! The effect of wearing the special eclipse glasses was startling! Unlike wearing sunglasses, for example, when wearing the special eclipse glasses you could see nothing at all, total darkness - except for the sun, which looked like a small yellow disk, getting progressive smaller as the hour passed. If you didn't know what you were looking at, you might think you were looking at the night sky at one of the partial phases of a harvest moon.

Towards the end of the Moon's apparent conquest of the Sun, you could feel the difference in the air, as it got just a little bit cooler. You could see the difference in the sky as it started to get darker. You could see it on the ground, which as it were reflected the crescent sun in patterns on the ground. Soon it seemed like an eerie twilight. We could hear the animals reacting accordingly, as if imagining it must be sunset.

And then it was dark! Two or three stars appeared in the sky, as the sun was completely covered and its hot corona suddenly shone all around the dark disk of the Moon. People cheered. People prayed. 

And then it was suddenly light again. No sooner did the Moon's movement reveal a small sliver of the Sun (on the other side this time), then normal light started to return. I suppose the poor animals were completely confused, as well they might be. We, however, who understood what we had seen and experienced could but express our joyful admiration.

Sun and Moon, bless the Lord! (Daniel 3:62)

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