Father Rutler is Pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City. He is the author of twenty-five books and many essays, and has lectured widely at home and abroad.
Now that the Summer Solstice has passed, and amateur Druids have left their plastic litter at Stonehenge for another year, the human mind has the past six months to reflect upon and the rest of the year to anticipate.
It is only because humans are in the image of God, which means we are able to think of him and reflect his love that made us, that we have the imaginative gift to picture past and future. Some scientists claim that certain animals have a reduced capacity for doing that, but only humans can say “I can’t imagine...” and “Can you imagine...?”
A professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yuval Harari, has speculated that even if there is some minimal ability for other creatures to remember and anticipate, “Only Homo Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. One-on-one or ten-on-ten, chimpanzees may be better than us. But pit 1,000 Sapiens against 1,000 chimps, and the Sapiens will win easily, for the simple reason that 1,000 chimps can never cooperate effectively. Put 100,000 chimps in Wall Street or Yankee Stadium, and you’ll get chaos. Put 100,000 humans there, and you’ll get trade networks and sports contests.” You also get the Holy Church.
The Prince of Lies would twist the imagination so that we are haunted rather than hallowed by the past, and hesitant rather than hopeful about the future. The American Psychological Association surveyed 2,000 people and found that only one percent of them wanted to know about what is to come.
Our Lord did not tell the apostles about the future, except to say, “Follow me.” So the doctors of the soul bid us say upon rising in the morning: “Serviam—I will serve.” Whether you are a Latinist or indulge the vernacular when half awake, that consecrates the day.
Approximately 3,866 years after the completion of Stonehenge, New Yorkers can watch a similarly spectacular sight when Manhattan becomes a sundial here on our worst and best of streets, 34th Street, viewed from the East River right across to our parish along the Hudson. If you missed the Solstice, you can see this phenomenon on July 12 and 13. The sun becomes blinding as the east-west grid aligns with the sunset and creates a spectacle that has come to be called, in competition with the Druids, “Manhattanhenge.” The sun will sink below the skyscrapers at 8:20 pm on Thursday and on Friday at 8:21 pm.
I have the selfish privilege of going into our church to pray after the doors are locked at sunset, with the noise of 34th Street shut outside. The mellow light filters through the nineteenth-century German glass windows. “And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23).