From the Editor—Friday Reflections

April 26, 2019

Special Effects

The Radiation of Easter

The news on April 10 announced our first-ever image of a real black hole. The headlines said such things as:

This is the first photo of a black hole (CNN)

Astronomers take the first picture of a black hole (Economist)

Except that we can't really "see" black holes in any conventional sense, nor was the image a photograph, as if we used high-tech space camera "take the first picture" of a black hole.

The picture was the product of 8 synchronized radio telescopes named the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which were pointed at Galaxy M87, 55 million light-years from Earth. Two hundred scientists read the data. The combined radio waves registered by the telescopes were analyzed. A computer "image" was created that followed a radiation pattern that is believed to indicate the presence of a black hole. The hole, with the mass of 6.5 billion of Suns (wrap your head around that!) sucks everything nearby into it, including light, but at the edge of its reach is an "event horizon" which we can detect.

We can't see a black hole, but we can know its place by its effects. Similarly, we "see" what scientists consider proof of a Big Bang and the expansion of the universe in the pattern of microwave radiation detected by radio telescopes.

In many ways we study history, even recent history, by looking at events, at effects, asking what were their causes? Why did Russia mobilize its army in 1914? Why did French citizens storm the Bastille? We're not satisfied to know that an Armada of ships sunk off the coast of Britain. Why were they there? We believe in agency in history. Causes that can be traced by their effects. The disappearance of dinosaur fossils after a certain period suggests a cause, and the effects of an asteroid impact on earth provide pieces of a giant puzzle we call history of the earth.

We try to make history a science, and we know enough about ourselves to read the past, study the events, the records, and the behavior of people to come up with reasonable interpretations.

We know our ancient history of violence, human sacrifice, warlords, tribal warfare, slavery, and the like to know that "barbarian" or "pagan" life is not something we'd like to experience. In contrast to the nasty, brutish, child-sacrificing, homicidal and genocidal societies of the past, we are able to judge modern homicidal societies as evil. Who can defend the Reign of Terror, the gulags, the Nazi death camps, or ISIS brutalities?

We know better because we have a light by which to see these things for the black holes of darkness that they are. And it can affect the way we try to live.

Whence that light? The life, death, and resurrection of Christ. No single event changed the world so much. While evil persists, there is a now counterweight of gravity given to humility, self-sacrifice, gentleness, kindness, love, peacemaking, and mercy unlike anything known before Him. We know the Resurrection occurred, in one sense, because there is no other way to explain the good effects we see in history.

The ongoing source of this Light is the Empty Tomb. And the focal point of darkness that preceded it was Golgotha, where Christ allowed all the darkness and evil of the world to be placed on himself. That darkness brought forth this effect in Him: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

But he endured it "for the joy set before him." Thus, on the other side of Golgotha, we who have been touched by Him can sing:

O come, all ye faithful, let us adore Christ's Holy Resurrection. For lo, through the Cross is joy come into all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, let us sing His Resurrection: for in that He endured the Cross for us, He hath destroyed Death by death. (Sunday Orthodox Matins)

We didn't see the Resurrection take place. Neither did the disciples. But countless disciples have encountered this Risen Life ever since, up to this very hour. He is risen!

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.