During the days leading up to Easter, the most sacred day in Christianity, the heavens have been presenting a stunning light show.
We are able to see five planets with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. And Saturday night – just hours before Easter sunrise services – we are being treated to a blue moon. That’s the name given to the second full moon in a month, something that happens roughly every 2.7 years
Moreover, this Easter’s blue moon is extra special, because it is the second one this year. The next time two blue moons occur in one year will be 2037.
There’s no denying the Bible commonly associates major events with anomalous astronomical and meteorological upheavals. But as a scientist and Christian, I’m always wary about giving too much importance to celestial signs and wonders. I certainly don’t believe in astrology.
That said, the astonishing celestial fireworks brightening this year’s Holy Week inspire me in three ways.
First, they remind me that if people are truly seeking evidence for God’s existence – including atheists, many of whom claim no such evidence exists – they only need to look up at the night sky. As it says in Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
It is certainly possible to explain the universe without any reference to a creator; but it’s like enjoying a sumptuous meal without giving any credit to the chef. Today, in an effort to avoid mentioning a creator, scientists are having to believe in unobservable notions such as imaginary time, 11-dimensional cosmologies, and quantum reservoirs that are at once nothing and everything.
How are these any less far-out than believing historical accounts that Jesus existed and rose from the dead?
Second, this week’s eye-popping events remind me that Christianity is the most inclusive and egalitarian religion imaginable. Just as the splendors of the night sky can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, without any viewing aids, Christians believe God’s love is freely available to anyone, anywhere, without the need of a privileged pedigree, guru, or some exemplary amount of karma.
As explained in the book of Ephesians, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith … not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Finally, the extraordinary celestial light show that we are in the midst of reminds me that our solar system offers a perfect metaphor for how we are to behave toward one another.
Absent the sun, absent God, we are as dark as the far side of the moon. But just as the desolate, gray lunar surface is able to reflect the light of the sun, we are made to reflect God’s love in the world.
So look up at the night sky and drink in its deep, inspiring message: This Easter, the creator of the universe is calling on all of us – Christian and non-Christian alike – to shine brightly with kindness and compassion and not just once in a blue moon, but every day we are alive.
Michael Guillen Ph.D., former Emmy-winning ABC News Science Editor, taught physics at Harvard and is now president of Spectacular Science Productions.