by Michael Burslem
In his TED Talk, Neil Turok, director of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, relates when he was asked by his former elementary mathematics teacher in Tanzania, “What banged?”
He suggested a mathematical model of the universe, consisting of two three dimensional sheets, parallel to one another, very close, but separated by a tiny space.
The touching of these two sheets created the Big Bang. He further suggested that the Big Bang was not a single event, but theoretically there could be multiple Big Bangs.
This was totally new to my mind, and started me thinking about the relationship between the physical world and the spiritual.
The physical world is where we live our lives in time and space, subject to physical laws, such as the law of gravity.
The spiritual is eternity, the heavenly realm, or kingdom of God, outside time and space, where physical laws don’t apply.
I’m not suggesting that this heavenly kingdom can be fitted into a mathematical model. Perhaps, though, two parallel sheets, physical and spiritual, are intimately close to one another, closer that we realize.
Paul tells us that our citizenship is in heaven, from where we eagerly await a Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20). We have one foot already in heaven, but the other is firmly planted on earth.
When two such sheets touch there’s a spiritual Big Bang, as at the Resurrection, the biggest Big Bang in all time and eternity.
Jesus died at Calvary in time and space, but rose in eternity. But he promised that he’d never leave us. How could that be? It’s mystery.
At every Eucharist, I believe, the mystery thickens.
The two sheets again come together, the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of the risen Lord Jesus, our saviour. In the bread and wine not only is he present, but our loved ones who have gone before us are also present. It’s an intimate foretaste of our great reunion in heaven.
The two sheets are so close that some people can peer into eternity from this world, as did Peter, James and John at the Mount of Transfiguration. They saw the glory of the Lord. These people are mystics. However, most of us don’t have this gift, but at the time of the Resurrection over 500 people did see the risen Lord. We can’t explain such mysteries, because they’re not subject to physical law.
Similarly, some people have the gift of seeing apparitions of the Lord or the Virgin Mother, and to converse with them. They usually receive instructions to pass on to the world. The iconic Biblical example is the Lord appearing to Paul on the road to Damascus.
But similar appearances have occurred as recently as the last century, to the three peasant children at Fatima or the unlettered Polish nun, Sister — now Saint — Faustyna.
Having lost so many loved ones, including Ellen my dear wife, I also believe they’re the cloud of witnesses, viewing us through the curtain between eternity — their world, and space and time — ours, and especially being with us in the Eucharist. We do believe in the communion of saints — saints militant, us on earth — and saints triumphant in the heavens.
This analogy is not a perfect metaphor. It leaves many questions unanswered, especially concerning their origins. As a physical human being, I leave that to Neil Turok and his fellow scientists. But as a spiritual being, I have to affirm “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
The two are not incompatible.
Michael Burslem is a member of St. George’s Guelph.