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Wonder and Awe File: On the Magnificence and”Minificence”of Creation

July 20, 2010

I know,  I made the word up: “minificence.” I’ll define in a moment. But I want to ponder with you for a moment the awesome mystery of size and numbers as we look out and as we look in.

Outer Space: As we look out on to God’s Universe we cannot even fathom how huge, how magnificent, is the size of the universe. We cannot comprehend such size.

Inner Space: But what is equally amazing is how vast a universe exists, hid from our unaided eyes, in what we might call “inner space,”  that tiny, almost invisible world of microbiology. In just a drop of pond water may exist hundreds of thousands of bacteria and microorganisms, a veritable universe unto itself. Indeed, in every human body exists trillions of microorganisms in a kind of microbial fauna. Eighty different types of microorganisms live in the mouth alone. Every square centimeter of human bowel contains as many as ten billion organisms. Every square centimeter of skin contains 10 million individual bacteria. Even on our eyelashes are  colonies of helpful bacteria and microorganisms that help keep harmful bacteria away. These massively numbered civilizations, universes really, of microorganisms, are only known recently with the invention of powerful microscopes. And to the micro-world of microorganisms, our bodies must seem as massive as the universe of outer space seems to us. If a microorganism could think, it would look upon our mere tiny bodies as a vast universe to large to really comprehend. Instead of trillions of stars, there are trillions of microorganisms. And to a microbe on eyelash,  a bacteria on the toe exists millions of light years away.

Minificence and Magnificence! If outer space is magnificent (from the Latin magnus meaning large or great) then inner space is (according to me) minificent (from the Latin minimus meaning small or tiny). The abundance of life in these “small” worlds is unimaginable. To the microorganisms which accompany me I am a universe too vast to comprehend. But I am but one man and there are over six billion human beings on this planet. And I, even we collectively,  am not large at all. I am an infinitesimally small speck, on a slightly larger but still tiny speck of dust rotating around a fiery spark called the sun  in a galaxy of over 200 billion other fiery sparks (or stars). And this is just one galaxy and there are over 125 billion other galaxies in the known universe so large that it would take over 100 million light years to cross it.

Time for wonder and awe! We’ve moved from inner space to outer space in a matter of moments but we really cannot comprehend numbers like these. It’s time for wonder and awe. God does all this with a simple word, and it is so. He knows the depths of our souls, the tiniest forms of life that cling to us. Every hair of our head is numbered and known to him. He knows the farthest fringes of the universe. He made the stars and calls them by name. Ah the Lord: He who dismisses the light, and it departs, calls it, and it obeys him trembling; Before whom the stars at their posts shine and rejoice;  When he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!” shining with joy for their Maker. (Baruch 3:33-35). One of the great hymns says: O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder; Consider all the works Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Do not forget to meditate on God’s wonders. It is a great antidote to pride. God has done unspeakable and marvelous things. And more is unseen than seen. The book of Sirach says: Beyond these, many things lie hid; only a few of his works have we seen. (Sirach 43:34)

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Comments (21)

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  1. Vijaya says:

    Oh yes! Worlds within worlds. And everything I see is wondrous — from the beat of a hummingbird’s wings to the seed that turns into a zucchini plant that keeps supplying us with so much zucchini that I have to leave giant ones on my neighbor’s porch, to watching babies grow … God is the Supreme Creator.

    I was thinking about stories and how God created everything by saying words, and what a good storyteller Jesus was, and how we are part of this great story now … heady.

    How Great Thou Art!

  2. Jimmy says:

    Thank you for bringing us into contemplation on the magnitude of the minitude (made that up, not as good as minificence though). I have often thought of this myself since I graduated from the LIMEX program where I focused on Religion and Ecology. In that Focus I studied the works of Fr. Thomas Berry. He introduced me to The Great Story which further enhanced my understanding of the holiness of the universe beyond Carl Sagan’s secular billions and billions.

    In that pursuit, one cannot help but realize how small and tiny we are in the full scheme of things, but yet come to the epiphany of how important we are in God’s eyes!

    Sadly, some people in the world today have created their own tiny worlds which they cannot look beyond. It seems to consist of a small handheld device in which their focus is on tiny letters flashing across a screen. Human interaction within this mini-cosmos is minimal and brief. The short entry into the larger reality then becomes superficial and almost electronic in itself. The attention span has become shortened and insight is crushed. The power of the word is being abbreviated and diminished.

    We have to find new ways to bring Christ into this midst. You are doing just that and I thank you. Keep up the great work!

  3. Aaron Michael Augustine Marsh says:

    The interior world of physics is very applicable in this case. 🙂 Trillions upon trillions upon trillions of subatomic particles, atoms, molecules, etc. come together in the most graceful and glorious way by the very Hands of God just to make YOU. It is of the most marvelous of Mysteries of His Creation. Not only can we awe at the tiniest of the tiniest and largest of the largest, we can also find great power and majesty in their interactions with one another; indeed, scientists are still trying to reconcile Quantum Physics, the science of the most small, with Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, the science of the most large.

    It is in this way that I find my way back to Faith, whenever I would, for example, think of such astray thoughts as “patterns in the universe make for things to be virtually the same” or “chaos is that from whence we came”. Which is quite a… ‘shame’, really. 🙂

    One thing I always come back to is the facts about our point in the universe, and what makes us, and all life on Earth, so special: the fulfilled necessities that went into our own bodily formation, not just from atoms and birth, but from formations in the sky.

    Take, for instance, the importance, and then the formation, of the Moon. Without it there would be no tides, the Earth’s axis would be unstable, and (according to a widely-accepted theory, which I will explain in brief in a moment) would not have a core rich enough in iron and nickel to retain the magnetic fields and various other precious necessities which life requires to “go”. The widely-accepted theory is that a proto planet about the size of Mars crashed into Earth and gave it its core its extra gurth and shaved off JUST enough material to make for the perfectly-sized moon. Did I mention that Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity was helped greatly inpart helped by the size of the moon? 🙂 Because the moon is in appearance the same “size” of the sun in our sky, we could see the bending of the light of stars around the sun because the light from the sun was blocked in perfect ratio by the moon. 🙂 Oh, and since the moon is further apart from us today than it was for the dinosaurs, the moon is in the perfect location JUST for us.

    That’s my banter, and I’m sticking to it!

    • Vijaya Bodach says:

      Yes! In the same vein, if the gravitational constant were just a little bit bigger or smaller, we wouldn’t be here. As a former scientist, I have not found any conflicts believing in God and all these things that have come to be. Rather, studying the physical and biological sciences has given me a tiny glimpse into the wondrous mind of God.

    • Yes, it is all truly remarkable

  4. Nick says:

    I don’t see why people care about parallel universes or other planets when they have whole worlds beneath their feet and above their heads and all around them.

  5. Cynthia BC says:

    The picture you chose illustrates your point well – it is astonishing how dogs vary in size and shape.

    Seeing the small dog brings to mind the following memory:

    From the time our daughter c was an infant, my husband and I read to her and talked to her about important things she needed to know, such as Sounds Animals Make. One day when c was about a year old, I took her for a wagon ride around our neighborhood. As we approached a yard with a small white dog:

    Me: Look, sweetie! What do you see over there?
    c: Dog!
    Me: What does Dog say?
    c: (enthusiastically) WOOF!
    Me: That’s right, honey-pot!
    Small White Dog: Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!

    Oh, you should have seen the shock and betrayal on c’s face when she turned to look at me. The dog did NOT say WOOF! Mommy had been saying the WRONG THING!

    I tried explaining that different dogs have different barks, but the damage was done. Ever since, I don’t think c has believed half of what I say.

  6. teo matteo says:

    I’ve traveled around the world to simply stand in the shadow of the moon with the understanding of how the moon’s apparent size equals the much larger sun’s greater distance – size… and how this dinky ‘glob’ of protons , electrons and neutrons (me) can be so moved by this wonder… a total eclipse..
    thanks for the post/reminder Father…
    teomatteo

  7. crazylikeknoxes says:

    What amazes me (though to a lesser extent) is how wondrous the world around me seems today and how stultifyingly boring it seemed when I was in high school. It is not that our knowledge has changed (relatively speaking), but that I have changed. Even today, I suspect I barely fathom the true glory of creation.

    With respect to How Great Thou Art, the line “all the works Thy hands have made” is sometimes printed as “all the worlds Thy hands have made.” Give the points you make in this post, i.e. that we are as a galaxy to the organisms that inhabit us, I think the word “worlds” fits rather well. [I have no idea which word is more faithful to the original Swedish, but would be curious to know.]

  8. Donna Ruth says:

    As further proof of “minificence” (like Sarah Palin – and Shakespeare 🙂 – you too are now coining functional words) I went into my Favorites to retrieve a stunning photomicrography site. When we look at this site we are reminded of some modern art – some of it visually arresting – and we discover that God was the first “modern” artist. We who think ourselves so evolved and progressive need only gaze on this beauty to know that the Author of beauty and wonder will be revealing His handiwork to us for all eternity:

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/10/photomicrography/all/1

  9. Bob Henry says:

    After viewing the magnificence of creation people still refuse to give glory to the Creator; they look for life in the bones of dinosaurs and their hope of everlasting life lies in the stars, even when studing the religious beliefs of ancient cultures they attempt to lift themselves above them; Jesus says that ‘they will try to lift themselves to heaven but instead will be cast down to hell’. For these the bible also says, “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will reject all the offspring of Israel because of all they have done, says the Lord.” Jer 31:37

  10. Grandpa Tom says:

    Macro or micro, the Book of Wisdom (which is not in the King James Bible) at 11:20, reminds us God disposed all things by measure, and by number, and by weight. God who moves the universe holds all things in harmony and balance. Prayer life brings us into the rhythm with Gods great symphony, and we all become as one heart beating together without any sour notes of corruption.