“The heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26).
The instructions for the accompanying image are as follows: "Concentrate on the four dots in the middle of the picture for about 30 seconds. Then close your eyes and tilt your head back. Keep them closed. You will see a circle of light. Look into it. What do you see?”
This popular Internet image was first sent to me years ago by a Japanese exchange student I had taught at a small Catholic college. She was not a Christian, but she was fascinated with the optical trick the image creates, and she thought that because I was a Christian I would appreciate it.
Today’s scripture readings continue the apocalyptic theme of Endtimes taken from the memory of the catastrophic destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and again in 70 CE. These readings triggered the memory of Izumi and the image she had shared with me, but this time with a sudden shock of recognition I had not considered then, or since. The image is a reverse, a negative of the picture that appears if you follow the instructions. And it is similar to the shadow-like outlines left on streets and against buildings in the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Witnesses afterwards were puzzled by these dark portraits until they realized that they were all that was left of human beings vaporized by the blinding flash and force of the explosions, whose heat and light were equal to the energy of the sun. The two cities were incinerated and tens of thousands of civilians were killed in concentric waves of death racing from the epicenter. Thousands more would die in the days to come from radiation and for decades after that. For them, it was the end of the world.
If irony can still impress us, the name of the project that produced the first atomic bomb was “Trinity.” The bombs dropped on Japan to end the war and to warn the Soviets were dubbed “Fat Man” and “Little Boy.” The first was dropped on August 6, the Catholic liturgical Feast of the Transfiguration, commemorating the appearance of Jesus on Mount Tabor, his face and clothing as brilliant as the sun. The second bomb used the spire of a Catholic church for ground zero. Like the first disciples, we have been been slow to understand or learn from the desolation delivered on humanity by that long, terrible war. Insight comes slowly into focus, but only when we are ready to face it. What do you see?