Portent of the Eclipse

Posted on 2024-04-10
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On Monday, Tyler prepared for a whale of a day: the observed Solemnity of the Annunciation, the arrival of the relic of St. Jude to our cathedral, and the solar eclipse. The confluence of events made us all feel that we were players in something big, so all our senses were tightly strung.

Tyler was on the Path of Totality, a 100-mile wide swath of the planet getting 100% coverage, toward the southern margin. We would be able to see several minutes of totality. In preparation, everyone got their eclipses glasses early to avoid “fakes,” planned an eclipse-watch party just next door to the Cathedral where the relic of St. Jude was being displayed, ordered pizzas, and relished the prospect of being together outside.

The radar forecast was worrying, showing clouds for days. Nevertheless, we sat with our heads tipped sunward as the moon began obscuring the sun around 12:40. The first sight of the eclipse, in which the sun looks like a Ritz cracker with a bite taken out, was clearly visible, but then the clouds began to thicken, obliterating our view of the sun. Instead of clearing as I expected, the clouds grew more dense.

Clouds are known to dissipate at the time of an eclipse due to the drop in temperature, but instead they obscured more and more of the sky over Tyler. We caught intermittent glimpses of the sun through one-second breaks in the clouds. As totality approached with greater and greater cloud cover, I thought sympathetically of all the people who’d taken vacation days to drive toward the Path of Totality, with special camera lenses and filters and excited kids wearing 04.08.24 t-shirts (all the hotel rooms and campsites around Tyler were sold out months in advance)… only to see clouds. Nature is utterly sovereign over even our best-laid plans and desires.

As 1:43, when totality was supposed to be visible in Tyler, the clouds broke. Not 1:30, not 2:00 but 1:43. The clouds broke precisely when it was time to see totality, not a minute sooner. We saw the moon “click” into place over the sun. Everyone tore off their glasses and beheld totality: a brilliant corona that seemed to shimmer, with colorful ejections visible along the lower edge, and beads of light from the moon’s indentations.

There was a spontaneous shout, like a 4th quarter touchdown in a close game. We all felt it; it was visceral. The temperature dropped, we were in twilight, and in the presence of God’s glory proclaiming itself in the heavens, cell phones lay forgotten and unattended.

The rareness of the occurrence is not what makes an eclipse compelling; it’s the eclipse itself. It was broadcast in many places, but the raw physicality of it was what made us all stop like we were enchanted.

Later in the day, we were under a tornado warning and the heavens opened up like they’d been hoarding rain for decades, but at 1:43, we saw the total eclipse in all its wonder.

The precisely-timed break in the heavy clouds to see the eclipse reminded me that God’s grace doesn’t arrive ahead of time to calm our fears. We may busily make plans and have everything lined up, but that will not affect God’s own perfect timing. He will act when He acts.

It may sound sentimental to attach “lessons” to the experience of the eclipse, but I am convinced that we are all going to be more and more uneasy as this year progresses, when the powers of this world bring into play momentous events that we can’t predict, “black swan events.” Black swans are unpredictable and extremely rare occurrences with severe consequences, like the world shutdown in 2020 or the attack on 9/11. Is it unreasonable that our good Father would give us lessons to strengthen us for those times?

I fully expect, in the remainder of this year, that the memory of the clouds breaking “just in time” will fortify me to face some apparently unmanageable situations (the kind in which the intercession of St. Jude is especially sought.) We didn’t give up on seeing the eclipse when the clouds rolled in. Had we tossed our glasses in disgust and gone for coffee, we would have missed it. God asks us for perseverance and our trust.

We may suffer alarm, fear, may even be tempted to despair by future events, but at the precisely right moment, God will part the clouds, and we will get a glimpse of His glorious plan. He won’t reveal it ahead of time; we will have to trust. I think that may be His point.

Source:  Born For This on Substack, https://sherylcollmer.substack.com/

Sheryl Collmer is an independent consultant for several non-profit organizations. She holds a Masters in Theological Studies from the University of Dallas, as well as an MBA. She lives in the diocese of Tyler, Texas and also serves as CFO, co-coordinator of Region 8, and national news editor for CORAC.


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