Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lunar Hermitage

I will behold thy heavens, the works of thy fingers:
the moon and the stars which thou hast founded.

(Ps 8:4)

(Note the lunar lander just left of centre.)

I have been pondering for some time retiring to a hermitage somewhere - down the South West of W.A.? down past Huonville in Tasmania? - but have just now decided that the Moon is the best place whereto withdraw.

There are no people there, after all - "Far from the madding crowd" indeed!

Of course, I will have to start saving the pennies and soliciting donations via one of those blog-sidebar gizmos, as even a slingshot round the Moon and back - without landing! - costs about U.S. $100 million (I will have to resist the temptation to convert to Russian Orthodoxy to gain Mr Putin's assistance in subsidizing the expense, although I'd be happy enough to take out Russian citizenship as a gesture toward my transporters; maybe if I agree to produce evidence that he wasn't born a Georgian?)...

I figure that, locating myself at one of the peaks of eternal light at the North or South Pole of Luna, with solar power, greenhouse, modest lifepod buried under a layer of regolith, and an occasional incoming rocket to supply non-recyclables, all would be most cosy.

What a Christian joy, to live alone, hidden with Christ - the true Sun, That knoweth no setting - on a very pic de lumière éternelle!

It would be fine indeed to be away from all and sundry - for as oft as I have been among men, I have returned less a man (so à Kempis, quoting Seneca) - while ensconced in my better-than-eagle-eyrie, casing an eye upon the busy globe, with all its transient pomps and vanities, seen in its true quality as a vanishingly small blot in the centre of boundless immensities, from my seat on the edge of cislunar space, scarce below the eternal heavens - for we should only view terrene things with the left eye, reserving the nobler right for the contemplation of things above; and in any case I would still have Internet access.

Apart from the obvious astronomical pursuits, and perforce checking on the continued smooth running of the hydroponic pumps, and urine purifier, while partaking of spartan meals of algae supplemented by vegetables grown in watered moon dust (beware: moon dust is probably a health hazard, being made of extremely fine and very jagged particles, depressingly like asbestos), I would be able to devote myself to prayer and ascesis.

Praise ye him, O sun and moon: 
praise him, all ye stars and light.
(Ps 148:3)

I think the larger time available would enable me to embark on a truly medieval round of prayers, rather like that day I read the Divine Office, the Little Office, the Office of the Dead, the Gradual and Penitential Psalms and the Litanies of the Saints, just for starters!  And of course I could always attempt lectio divina and meditation if I really wanted to.

O ye sun and moon, bless the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
(Dan. iii, 62)

The only real drawback would be the lack of a chaplain (I think it would be prideful to ask for emergency ordination prior to departure from Baikonur cosmodrome, although I know at least one Aussie priest who obtained his orders under lawful if mysterious circumstances while visiting the Middle East).  I would plan to console myself by watching streaming video of sumptuous liturgies over the Net, from the New Liturgical Movement et al., and listening to Podcazts; given weight limitations, bringing too many CD's and DVD's could prove difficult - my personal library alone will require a separate rocket launch...

Of course, within the Oratory of my lifepod I should have room for some reproduction icons and a shelf-cum-altar, and like a Carthusian I could at least read a dry Mass; incense, let alone real candles, will, alas, prove too dangerous given the limited oxygen supply despite the presence of plants to scrub out CO₂.  No doubt I could have horrible fake Italian electric candles instead, to punish my vanity.  (I'll bring two blest candles in case the Three Days' Darkness occur during my lonely sojourn.)

Doubtless I should have in my Oratory a beautiful statue of Our Lady, Queen of Luna: for is she not fair as the Moon (Cant. vi, 9)? and does she not reign in heaven as Queen with the Moon under her feet (Apoc. xii, 1)?

Perhaps an indult could be got from the Vatican for long-life hosts, which I could bring (pre-consecrated), like a new Tarcisius, on my one-way voyage?  All men know that in the early church even laymen travelled with the Sacrament upon their person (e.g. St Satyrus, brother of St Ambrose), and there is a lunar precedent: Buzz Aldrin brought with him some Eucharistic elements (albeit from his Presbyterian church), which he consumed in the Eagle ere Armstrong, then he, stepped forth after their historic landing.  If I were instituted as an acolyte, I could even mount Exposition.  No doubt self-communion would be permitted, under such peculiar constraints...

Yes, something to do with eagles would make for a nice allusion: I think that Eyrie Oratory would be a fitting moniker for my lunar hermitage.


And just to shew my ecumenical streak, here is the proposed "Common for Space Exploration" of the Episcopalians in the U.S.A.:

Collect (traditional language)

Creator of the universe, whose dominion extends through the immensity of space: guide and guard those who seek to fathom its mysteries [especially N.N.].  Save us from arrogance lest we forget that our achievements are grounded in thee, and, by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, protect our travels beyond the reaches of earth, that we may glory ever more in the wonder of thy creation: through Jesus Christ, thy Word, by whom all things came to be, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 19 [18]:1-6 (Cæli enarrant)
Canticle 12 (the Benedicite): from Daniel 3: 57-87 plus doxology

Job 38: 4-12, 16-18 ("Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth... when the morning stars praised Me together...")
Revelation 1:7-8, 12-16 ("Behold He cometh with the clouds... I saw... One like to the Son of Man...")

John 15:5-9 ("I Am the Vine, you are the branches...")

Preface of God the Father or the Epiphany*

Of these suggested texts, obviously Psalm 18 and the Benedicite are good proposals, being filled with Divine praises for the cosmic order; as readers will note, I've also quoted above from Psalms 8 and 148, for utterly the same reason.  One could add also Psalms 103 and 135...

Job xxxviii is another happy choice, since it aptly describes the mysteries of the universe.

However, bizarrely enough, the second Lesson, from the Apocalypse, seems to have been chosen because it can be read as describing Christ as as ancient astronaut, à la Erich von Däniken!  This is most inappropriate, and I'd junk it.

Similarly, I cannot really see why the passage from St John xv is applicable in any but the most generic sense.

Finally, I think the suggested Prefaces* aren't the best - while certainly, though in common with all other Episcopalian Prefaces, in their contemporary language versions, God the Father is named "Creator of heaven and earth", surely, a still better and more apposite choice would be that of the Ascension:

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, through thy dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who after his glorious resurrection manifestly appeared to his disciples; and in their sight ascended into heaven, to prepare a place for us; that where he is, there we might also be, and reign with him in glory.  Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name, evermore praising thee, and saying:

Holy, holy, holy...

Some of these texts, mutatis mutandis, could be used at my eremitical consecration prior to blast-off...

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