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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"Christmas Eve in Space and Communion on the Moon"

Christmas Night 2016

On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 orbited the Moon, the first manned space vehicle to do so.   The astronauts on board,  Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders commemorated the occasion by reading the first 10 verses of Genesis as millions of people around the world watched a special telecast from the spacecraft.

In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal[1], Eric Metaxas writes of this and then describes for us an occurrence on Apollo 11, the following July, in which Buzz Aldrin partakes of Holy Communion inside the lunar landing module on the Moon itself.  Herewith some segments of the story:

[W]hat could one do to mark the first time human beings landed on another heavenly body? He asked Dean Woodruff, the pastor of his church in Webster, Texas, who had an idea. 
What if he were to take communion? What is more basic to humanity than bread and wine? He could do it as his own way of thanking God—for the Earth and for everyone on it, and for our amazing ability to do things like build spacecraft that could fly to the moon. So the pastor gave him a small amount of consecrated bread and wine and a tiny chalice, and Mr. Aldrin took them with him to the moon. After the Eagle had landed and he and Neil Armstrong sat in the Lunar Module, Mr. Aldrin said this over the radio: 
“This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
 He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, read a Bible verse, and took communion. For reasons he explains in his own account, none of this was made public until Mr. Aldrin wrote about it in Guideposts magazine the following year: 
 “In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup.” 
 Then Mr. Aldrin read Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” He explained that he had wanted to read this over the radio back to Earth, but at the last minute NASA asked him not to because the agency was in a legal battle with the outspoken atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair. As it happened, she was suing over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis on Christmas Eve. And that of course is why so few people have heard of this amazing story. 
 [In a personal interview with Metaxas about 10 years ago, Mr. Aldrin explained more]: “I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.” 
 And of course right now, as Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus, it’s fascinating to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were his words, the powerless newborn in the dirty manger who came to Earth from heaven, and who made the Earth and the moon and all of us, in His own image. And who, in the immortal words of Dante, is himself the “Love that moves the Sun and other stars.” 
Merry Christmas.

[1]Eric Metaxas.  “Christmas Eve in Space and Communion on the Moon,” The Wall Street Journal, December 24-25, 2016.  Page A13.

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