7.21.2009

Communion on the Moon



Forty years ago, men did more than just walk on the moon; they also took communion [Thanks to First Things for pointing this out]:

Shortly after landing, before preparations began for the EVA, Aldrin broadcast that: "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 took Communion privately. At this time NASA was still fighting a lawsuit brought by atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair (who had objected to the Apollo 8 crew reading from the Book of Genesis) which demanded that their astronauts refrain from religious activities while in space. As such, Aldrin chose to refrain from directly mentioning this. He had kept the plan quiet (not even mentioning it to his wife) and did not reveal it publicly for several years. Buzz Aldrin was an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, TX. His communion kit was prepared by the pastor of the church, the Rev. Dean Woodruff. Aldrin described communion on the moon and the involvement of his church and pastor in the October, 1970 edition of Guideposts magazine and in his book "Return to Earth." Webster Presbyterian possesses the chalice used on the moon, and commemorates the Lunar Communion each year on the Sunday closest to July 20.

Read more here. Here's Aldrin's recollection:

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 slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing." I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute [they] had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly. …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.

Many associate the first images of Earth from outer space with elevating the cause of environmentalism. And well it should: Earth, from that perspective, can be better appreciated for its importance and delicacy, which should prompt us to greater measures of stewardship and responsibility. But, and this is not mutually exclusive but rather hand in hand, such a perspective ought also point us to a Maker who is far greater than anything we can touch, see, or even comprehend, who spoke existence into existence. And, the smallness of Earth as seen from space ought to enhance that grand truth.



Communion on the moon? Out of this world. Earth, as seen from space? Cause for doubling down on taking care of it, and for raising our hands in awe of the One who made it.
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