As Lent begins, I am off on my travels again, this time to the United States. I think perhaps the experience of flying is more significant than I tend to give it credit for because it has become routine.

I was praying Vespers on the plane and the psalmist asks: “Lord, what is man that you care for him, mortal man that you keep him in mind, man who is merely a breath, whose life fades like a shadow.”

Paradoxically, the technology which allows me to travel at 600 miles per hour, 37,000 feet up in the air always makes me feel very small and insignificant by making me more vividly aware of the vastness of the world and the sky.

As with God, the nearer you get to the heavens, the more their immensity becomes apparent. No wonder that the psalmist’s reaction to this sense of his smallness is to implore: “Lower your heavens and come down; touch the mountains, wreath them in smoke.”

High above the clouds then, two related things happen. The first is that I have a deep desire to pray (aided in part by the fact that for a few hours no one can get me by phone or email; no one can make any demands on me at all). The second is that my heart reaches out towards the people of significance in my life whose love actually stops the vastness of the world being overwhelmingly frightening.

The two movements are both related to this recognition of one’s littleness and insignificance cosmologically. The only thing which makes the vastness of the heaven’s bearable is love; to be loved by the God who created them and to know that they overarch those I love and who love me.

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