I have been told that I am dust
but I have never been told that I am STARDUST.
Is this only poetic language?
Let us look at this photo taken in 2014 by the Hubble Space Telescope which reveals nearly 3,000 distant galaxies and millions of stars hidden in a portion of the sky that seems blank and empty. We know that the beauty of the Universe is unfathomable. The concept of 100 billion suns, each of them a star within one of the 100 billion galaxies is beyond our imagination.
Contemporary research awakens us to the discovery that we come from the stars. We are stardust! But how can we be so sure?
At the time of the Big Bang, some 13.8 billion years ago, hydrogen and helium were released; clouds of these gases condensed into the first stars and galaxies. In their nuclear alchemy, the stars released heavy elements which became the elements of life. That is what made our own existence possible. Amazing! In fact, we were born from the stars. Our life, so precious and so fragile, originated from the stars!
We are stardust, miniature universes gifted with the mysterious faculty we call consciousness. As we look at the soil beneath our feet, let us be aware that we stand on the blue planet, next to a yellow star we call Sun. Let us contemplate the Milky Way in this vast cosmic space containing billions of galaxies. We can say with Hubert Reeves and other scientists: “This is home.” Or to quote Pope Francis in Laudato ‘Si, this is “our common home”.
It is amazing to reread the Abrahamic text in light of the immensity of the Universe:
“God took Abraham outside and said: “Look up to the sky and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants.” And Abraham chose to trust in God. (Genesis 15: 5).
With even more incredible amazement, David wrote Psalm 8:
“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands.
Psalm 8, NRSV (inclusive language)
Wonder of wonders! Without the stars, the Universe would be deprived of life, deprived of consciousness. Are we aware of this? The minerals and other elements that constitute the life of animals and flowers were born from the stars. The nuclei of atoms which constitute human beings were engendered in the interior of collapsing stars some billion years ago. The calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, nitrogen in our DNA all come from stars. Amazing discovery!
We inhale today the same atoms of oxygen as did Julius Caesar, Einstein, Mary, Mohammed, Gandhi, Jesus, etc. Contemporary scientists inform us that the matter of which we are made came from other galaxies. Could we not consider ourselves as space travellers or extragalactic immigrants?
Where is God in all this? asks Hubert Reeves
“The need to give meaning to life and to all reality is a distinctive characteristic of humanity.”
Each one of us brings an answer. Some scientists have doubts. Others are filled with awe. Some develop a spirituality of enquiry! With our limited human spirit, will we ever understand the immensity of the Universe? There will always be a part of mystery!
For Einstein, “The finest sentiment in the world is the sense of mystery. I feel my strongest emotion before the mystery of life.”
Let us take a moment to contemplate this great mystery! (a few seconds)
One with those who have come before us, we ponder…
We are stardust: such is the astonishing message of contemporary astronomy. Thousands of researchers have participated and continue to participate in this discovery. We give thanks for them!
We pay tribute to the brilliant team members who construct telescopes and observation instruments for NASA in their workshops or laboratories. They contribute to our discovery of the vastness of the Universe. We give thanks for them!
We pay tribute to our ancestors, who also came from the stars. The genes and the spirit of our ancestors were transmitted to us by our parents. Their spirit is always alive in our cells. Their genetic makeup is perpetuated in our bodies for all future generations. We give thanks for them!
We pay tribute to researchers and environmental groups for their efforts. Their work increases our awareness of the devastating impact of the destruction of Earth and of the effects of climate change. We give thanks for them!
We are also informed by the Buddhist tradition (Thich Nhat Hanh):
True change will take place only when we will fall in love with our planet. For only love can show us how to live in harmony with nature and with one another. We give thanks for them!
Let us take a moment of silence
God is the friend of silence. Trees, flowers, grass all grow in silence.
Look at the stars, the moon and the sun. See how they move so silently. (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
(Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope)
Close your eyes. Concentrate on your body.
Repeat silently: I exist.
Open your eyes.
Look at the world around you.
Say to yourself: “I am stardust.”
“the world is stardust.”
Have we not been observing one of the most outstanding achievements ever realized?
A large number of galactic, planetary, stellar events of the past 14 billion years have brought us to this point of awareness. We cannot let the earth die! It is imperative that we humanise humanity.
Let us stand with Teilhard de Chardin, theologian Elia Delio and many others, who firmly believe that love is at the heart of the evolution of the world:
“In the depths of our DNA we belong to the stars, the trees and the galaxies… Deep within we long for unity because, at the most fundamental level, we are already one. We belong to one another because we have the same source of love; the love that flows through the trees is the same love that flows through our beings… We are deeply connected in this flow of love, which is the foundation of the universe.” (Elia Delio, Franciscan and theologian)
Let us go forth and let love transform us.
Youtube: Ingrid Lefort and students
References for this reflection on “Stardust”
•Google : Poussières d’étoiles
•Poussières d’étoiles, Hubert Reeves, 1984
•Laudato’Si, Encyclical Letter on Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis, 2015
•Le banc du temps qui passe, méditation cosmique, Hubert Reeves, Seuil, 2017
•La terre comme soi-même. Repères pour une écospiritualité, Michel Maxime Egger, 2012
• Priez 15 jours avec Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, André Dupleix, nouvelle cité, 1994
– The Occasional Papers, Interview with Cynthia Bourgeault, Shaping the Planet with Transformed Love, Winter 2017
– Ilia Delio: “On Consciousness and Christogenesis: Teilhard’s Two Energies”
Pierrette Daviau, fdls et Lise Gagnon, snjm
English Translation: Lorraine St-Hilaire snjm
Spanish Translation: Eduardo Borrell