The Music of the Spheres

By: Chris Johnson

Ever since I first heard it, my favorite hymn has been, “This is My Father’s World.” The reminder that we live in the world that God created for us – His imagination made manifest – is a constant comfort, and adds a sense of wonder to the things that seem so common for us. But today, something uncommon is happening which the hymn speaks to as well.

This afternoon, the moon will block the sun’s light in a solar eclipse, an event which we will have to wait another twenty years to experience again. As Maltbie B Babcock wrote in his hymn, “All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.”

The “music of the spheres” refers to an ancient idea, related to the Pythagorean Theorem, that (as I understand it, which isn’t well) the path and rotation of each planet as it spins produces its own music, and that when the music of these planets blend together, it is a meticulously harmonious symphony. So, in the Middle Ages, scholars actually thought that if you could fly up amongst the planets, it wouldn’t be quiet and empty and lonely, but you would find yourself immersed in this “music of the spheres.”

This music at that time, of course, wasn’t attributed to the cold authority of “Chance” or assumed to be the result of a “Big Bang,” but to the creative mind of God Almighty who tuned the planets like instruments when he set them into orbit.

The Canticle of St. Francis of Assisi references a similar idea: “Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings. To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name. Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day through whom You give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour, Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.”

C.S. Lewis, known best for his Chronicles of Narnia, also wrote what we call “the Space Trilogy,” a science fiction which, for reasons you will see in the quote below, he would have hated our title for. As his main character hurtles through “Space,” he comes to this conclusion: “space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens—the heavens which declared the glory—the “happy climes that ly Where day never shuts his eye Up in the broad fields of the sky.”

As it turns out, the ancients weren’t crazy. You can “hear” space here, and it truly is beautiful.

Today, in a unique way, we will experience the precision of God’s finely tuned instruments, even if we can’t hear them. We ought not to downplay the significance of this sign from God. It is a reminder to us: He set these planets in motion before human history, and His plans are still being carried out with precision and purpose.

Today, the Heavens declare the Glory of God, in a unique way. That declaration is always worth paying attention to.



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