Today was the much-anticipated day of the ‘American Eclipse of 2017’. Once we learned that glasses were no longer available, my husband and I decided to try the ‘two sheets of paper and pin hole’ method. And it worked!! My husband cut three different sizes of holes, and wonder of wonders, it was the tiniest hole, the pin hole, that produced the best image.
We taped the sheet to the outside window of our back patio and waited, peering at the image on the bottom sheet every ten minutes or so as the shadows began to lengthen and it started to get cold. That is what I will remember most about today’s solar eclipse: the dramatic plunge in the temperature.
The solar eclipse was not total in our area; this is the closest we came: 90%.
They say that birds stop chirping during an eclipse, but the sea gulls that are so noisy this time of year in our neighbourhood never did stop their raucous cacophony. Maybe it takes a total eclipse to silence them.
I’m glad I got to experience the solar eclipse today. It’s so easy to get caught up in our everyday activities that we forget that we are part of an immeasurably vast and awesome cosmos. When I experience a celestial event like that of today, I am reminded of the words of the psalmist:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV).
We who live in this part of the world got to ‘consider the heavens’ today.
The majority of those who watched the solar eclipse probably regarded it as a fascinating scientific phenomenon, and nothing more. Christians no doubt viewed it, not only a scientific phenomenon but a demonstration of God’s awesome creative activity.
Fascinating as it was, could the American Eclipse of 2017 have been more than a scientific phenomenon or demonstration of God’s handiwork? Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of US evangelist Billy Graham, believes it could be, issuing an urgent warning of impending disaster and destruction. The last solar eclipse to cross the continental US occurred in June of 1918. What followed was the Spanish flu pandemic when 675,000 Americans–20 – 50 million people worldwide–died.
The trajectory of today’s solar eclipse crossed the US mainland from northwest to southeast, passing over three important seismic zones: Cascadia, Yellowstone, and New Madrid. Another solar eclipse will occur in eight years time, on April 24 in 2024. At that time, the path of the solar eclipse will proceed from northeast to southwest. The zone where the two trajectories cross on April 8 is the New Madrid seismic zone: a significant location, for sure! This was the location of the largest earthquake ever to occur in the US. On 16 December 1811, a 7.5 – 7.9 earthquake occurred in the region that was felt as far way as New York City, Boston, Montreal, and Washington DC. In the early 1800s, human life lost was minimal because it occurred in an unpopulated area. If another earthquake were to occur there, loss of human life would be catastrophic.
Today’s solar eclipse could be the harbinger of something even more devastating than a world pandemic or massive earthquake, and hence, Anne Graham Lotz’ urgent warning. Could today’s celestial event be a sign of the approaching ‘Day of the LORD’, that time of apocalyptic judgment predicted to occur at the end of history? According to the prophet Joel, cosmic convulsions are a signal that the Day of the LORD is imminent.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD (Joel 2:31).
Anne Graham Lotz may be right. However, the thing about such claims: it’s only with the passage of time that we learn whether or not some event was indeed a sign of impending catastrophe.
There was an earlier solar eclipse on 21 August, in 1914, just weeks after the start of World War I. Its trajectory followed a path through Eastern Europe. It’s now known as the World War I solar eclipse. Did those who observed it see it as an omen of some sort? Of those who did, no one, I’m sure, could have even begun to imagine what lay ahead, not only for Europe, but for the entire world.
I enjoyed watching the solar eclipse today. Was it an omen of impending disaster? Who can say? One thing I do know: Christians are exhorted to be watchful, not fearful!