An Oasis for the Soul | A Place in the Sky
By Br Bede Mullens, O.P. | In our new Lenten series, the student brothers invite you to discover those places that have become ‘oases’ in their spiritual journey, significant places in their lives where they withdraw to encounter God. Today, Br Bede writes about the ‘spectacular, unnecessary, totally gratuitous beauty’ of a place that is accessible to all of us, in the blink of an eye...
Throughout Homer’s Iliad, the fixed features of the natural world – the morning’s ‘rosy-fingered dawn’ and the ‘much-roaring’ of the sea – provide a constant and unchanging backdrop for the play of fast-moving and frequently tragic human affairs. Myself, I have always taken great delight in watching the sky, especially at sunset and sunrise. Granted, in England we do not enjoy the sun as reliably as Homer’s heroes on the Turkish coast; yet the sky is a constant, in the city or out of the city, at home or away, in sadness and in joy, in moments when life stands still and again when we find ourselves on the cusp of something new.
My parents’ house sits atop a hill in an area which is otherwise quite flat. When I was younger, and still when I visit, I would take the opportunity to see the sunset writ large against the horizon, and drink deep in the cocktail of blues and purples and rose and orange. The eye cannot take everything in at once, even in a wide-open space, and it is the partiality that allows one to look on without final satiety or boredom. The colours themselves are deep enough and sufficiently striking that, even in Oxford where often I only catch fragmented ribbons amid the cityscape, I find my eye caught and transfixed at the window.
In a beauty so simple, it is easy to still the mind. At the same time, I cannot help but feel that these are intimations of the majesty of God. ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork,’ cries the Psalmist; the sun ‘comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a champion runs its course with joy’. After the heat and toil and uncertainty of the day, the sunset reminds us of glory – spectacular, unnecessary, totally gratuitous beauty. We have, in our little parcel of sky, only an inkling of its extent: realising its incomprehensibility, we are awed. The revelation reveals how little we see, as well as the little that we see. Dwelling on that, for a moment, I put aside the pettiness and the dross and the cares that weigh on my mind; there is more to the world than my little patch, and the world itself is even less than a little patch, set next to God.
(Image: Sunset behind Exeter College, Oxford. Wikimedia Commons.)
All the posts from the series An Oasis for the Soul:
- Introduction, by Br Pablo Rodríguez Jordá, O.P.
- Refreshment, light and peace, by Br Pablo Rodríguez Jordá, O.P.
- A Place in the Sky, by Br Bede Mullens, O.P.
- Praying in a Museum, Reclaiming Sacred Art, by Br Albert Elias Robertson, O.P.
- Where Astronauts and Novices Sound Alike, by Br Francesco Lorenzon, O.P.