Monday, May 23, 2011

Wisdom and Science

Monday, May 23, 2011 -- Week of 5 Easter, Year One
Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler, Astronomers, 1543
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 962)
Psalms 56, 57, [58] (morning)       64, 65 (evening)
Wisdom of Solomon 9:1, 7-18*
Colossians (3:18 - 4:1)2-18
Luke 7:36-50
            * found in the Apocrypha

...but who has traced out what is in the heavens?  Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?  And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and people were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom.  (Wisdom 9:16b-17)

The book of the Wisdom of Solomon was written in Greek by a Hellenized Jew, probably in Alexandria, Egypt.  It is dated variously, but may be contemporaneous with some Christian literature such as the Gospel of John.  It is part of our Apocrypha.

In the passage today, the writer speaks in the voice of Solomon, praising wisdom, who knows the works of God, was present when God created all things, and who understands all things.  The writer asks of God to send wisdom to him for inspiration and guidance.  "Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of your glory send her, that she may labor at my side, and that I may learn what is pleasing to you.  For she knows and understands all things, and she will guide me wisely in my actions and guard me with her glory."

What an appropriate reading for our celebration of the new feast commemorating Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler, astronomers who traced the patterns of the solar system.  Originally, Copernicus' 1543 publication of his full theory of a heliocentric pattern of planets rotating around the sun was dedicated to the Pope.  Copernicus saw no conflict between his theory and the doctrines of the church or the teaching of Scripture.  But controversy accelerated in religious circles, especially when Galileo developed the theory, and was tried by the Inquisition in 1632, forced to recant, and spent the last part of his life under house arrest. 

Johannes Kepler's first major work on Copernican astronomy was published in 1595.  Kepler believed that the planetary patterns reflected the image of God -- the Sun corresponding to the Father, the stellar sphere to the Son, and the intervening space between them to the Holy Spirit.  He understood his observations and discoveries as a revelation of God's geometric plan for the universe.

One of the marks of the Episcopal Church is our embrace of reason and discovery as a means of revelation.  We believe that whatever is true and real is consistent with God who is Absolute Truth and Ultimate Reality.  Therefore we see the work of science as a religious work, giving us further insight into the mystery of God's universe. 

In our denomination there is no conflict between our religious faith and the discovery that the planets revolve around the sun or that life evolves.  The proposed commemoration of Copernicus and Kepler is one of the ways we celebrate the gifts and challenges of scientific discovery.

As science learns more the arc of the unknown seems to expand.  Every answer leads to more questions.  With discovery also comes responsibility.  New powers demand new wisdom.  How will we use the power of the atom or of the genome?  Will will use our new learning in ways that will bless or stress the earth and its inhabitants? 

Today as two millennia ago we pray that God send wisdom to our aid.  Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of your glory send her, that she may labor at our side, and guide us wisely in our actions and guard us with her glory.



At 9:17 AM, Anonymous janet said...

Good Morning,

Is the wisdom literature connected to the Shekinah, glory of God from the O.T., also portrayed as feminine form of Divine? It seems to me it must be.

I've played with creating poetry about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as Sun, Moon, and stars; after an evening under the full moon and many stars on a sacred space of a labyrinth..though probably not based too much in science.

It is a treat to have you back writing in the mornings.


At 8:09 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


Yes, you are right -- the Shekinah of God is the divine presence and indwelling (especially in the Temple) and is a feminine image. I wish I had looked at your comment before writing today's blog. It adds to my theme about the divine feminine.



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