top of page

Eclipse Serendipity

Perhaps the most profound moment of serendipity from the 2024 solar eclipse came to me in the silence of a church pew.

My mindset was in full eclipse mode, so prior to an April 7 mass at St. Alphonsus Ligouri Catholic Church in Zionsville, IN, I was recalling that three gospels--Matthew, Mark, and Luke--each refer to a so-called crucifixion darkness in which the daytime sky darkened for three hours. Some people have attributed it to a solar eclipse, while others suggest it was a lunar eclipse, though both claims have obvious shortcomings.

I had been aware of this reference before, as my 2017 solar eclipse page had a background of Dionysius the Areopagite Converting the Pagan Philosophers by Antoine Caron (French, 1521-1599, Getty Museum, Los Angeles), which featured a solar eclipse.

Painting with solar eclipse above city.
Dionysius the Areopagite Converting the Pagan Philosophers, by Antoine Caron (French, 1521-1599); Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Around Easter 2024 I saw an excerpt of the 1961 movie Barabbas, for which director Richard Fleischer moved the crew and set from Rome to Sienna to film the crucifixion scene during an actual total solar eclipse.

I don’t know if the crucifixion darkness was a literary invention or a miraculous intervention, but it suggests the epic importance, power, and awe humans associate with a solar eclipse.  There was cause for contemplation as I sat in the pew.

Then I glanced at the stained glass window behind the altar at St. Alphonsus Ligouri. I could see only the unmistakable visage of a total solar eclipse, with the backlit crucifix silhouetted in the foreground. It was stunning.

Rays of light emanate outward from a central yellowish feature, with some more of it exposed in the lower right limb. Photos don't do it justice. Meanwhile, a black sphere like a new moon has moved up and left across the yellowish orb, until the obstructed central sun seemingly emerges again in the lower right. It's Third Contact in stained glass.

Many people likely had a moment of serendipity during the 2024 solar eclipse, with some of those Wows captured by the millions of cell phones and telescopes on high alert. I bracketed some images using the Solar Snap app, as if this apparition before me was the one I had come to see. Instead of totality lasting a few minutes, on this day in this church it lasted the duration of a mass. Wanting to stretch out the suspended spectacle before me, I hoped for a longer homily.

On Monday, April 8,  to commemorate the heavenly syzygy--an alignment of celestial bodies--we held up messages spelled with crescents projected onto a white screen. From Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork."


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page