Time to delve into astronomy, astrology and the word of God. Pg 30 of Inviting God In by Joyce Rupp. (Other posts in the series are under the tag: Inviting God In.)
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4
We’re in a situation in the world these days where city light becomes a problem for astronomers, professional and amateur. There are fewer and fewer places where the sky is dark enough on a clear night for telescopes to get a decent view of the “heavens”. I suppose radio telescopes are less affected by that? And the other option is telescopes in space, like the Hubble and the future James Webb Space Telescope, to launch in 2019.
On the acreage where I grew up, it was dark enough most nights to get a bit of a sense of the Milky Way spanning the sky but it wasn’t very bright and it seemed like I needed to not look directly at it to see it better. Then I see the photographs where the whole of the thing is there, stretching out above the world, and think, yeah, I can see why people created gods when they got around to contemplating the view and wondering what was out there.
Rupp admits much the same on this page, sensing “an attraction and a yearning for mystery that far outreaches my rational mind…I find myself wanting to kneel before the beauty and mystery of the creator.” Whereas I don’t care much about astronomy but admire the view.
I thought she’d bring up specific stars; since this is the advent section of the book, I figured the Star of Bethlehem would at least get a nod, but no. I Fucking Love Science has a piece about the star from an astronomy point of view. (I’ll ignore the fact that they claim 3 wise men since that number isn’t even in the bible story at all):
Astronomer Michael Molnar points out that “in the east” is a literal translation of the Greek phrase en te anatole, which was a technical term used in Greek mathematical astrology 2,000 years ago. It described, very specifically, a planet that would rise above the eastern horizon just before the Sun would appear. Then, just moments after the planet rises, it disappears in the bright glare of the Sun in the morning sky. Except for a brief moment, no one can see this “star in the east.”
They remind that the word “planet” comes from Greek (“wandering star”) and actual stars don’t seem to change their positions over a person’s lifetime so constellations don’t change shape and will be in the same “place” every season.
Though the planets, Sun and Moon move along approximately the same path through the background stars, they travel at different speeds, so they often lap each other. When the Sun catches up with a planet, we can’t see the planet, but when the Sun passes far enough beyond it, the planet reappears.
And now we need a little bit of astrology background. When the planet reappears again for the first time, and rises in the morning sky just moments before the Sun, for the first time in many months after having been hidden in the Sun’s glare for those many months, that moment is known to astrologers as a heliacal rising. A heliacal rising, that special first reappearance of a planet, is what en te anatole referred to in ancient Greek astrology. In particular, the reappearance of a planet like Jupiter was thought by Greek astrologers to be symbolically significant for anyone born on that day.
Nobody actually knows how “real” the story is or what the star would have been if it was, though. It’s all guesswork and conjecture. And, for believers, faith.
Next time, resting in God’s arms.