Last week I heard astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talk on the radio about dark matter and dark energy. Both, he said, have yielded to measurement, but neither has yielded to scientists’ attempts at imaginative re-construction.
Yielding to measurement, dark matter and energy confirm their reality – that they are – through the small but measurable displacements of surrounding objects. Refusing to yield to imaginative inquiry, though, they keep their essence – what they are – a secret.
Paul, preaching in Athens, spoke to the Greeks of the “Unknown God” represented by one of their objects of worship. Today, forty days after Easter, we recall Christ’s ascension, his return to the Father from whom he came: his disappearance into the heart of the Unknown God. Hidden there, he yields to our inquiry only as he pleases. Displacements in the world, welcome and unwelcome, reveal that he is. Imaginative reconstruction falls short of grasping fully either what or who he is. Faith calls him Love Unknown, elusive, mysterious, dark matter, dark energy, yet somehow trustworthy. In the rhythms of the church’s prayers and praises, we learn to receive the displacements that bear witness to his reality, to accept the limits of our inquiry into his essence, and finally to call him both Master and Friend.