“We Are Become as Gods…”

We begin our quest for Jesus on the anniversary of the day thousands, mostly civilians, were killed in a blaze of light and heat in Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. Also today we commemorate the mysterious event we call the “Transfiguration” of Christ on Mt. Tabor — when he seemed to his apostles to be transformed, for a moment, into a being, not of ordinary flesh, but of light…

By Robert Moynihan

“We are become as gods, destroyers of worlds.”
— J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoting the Bhagavad Gita after watching the first nuclear explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
—A slightly different version of the verse from the Bhagavad Gita that Oppenheimer recalled while watching the test

“The time has come… for destroying those who destroy the Earth.”
— Revelation 11:18

And They Named it “Trinity”

J. Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the American team of physicists that in 1945 developed the atomic bomb, was a close student of the Hindu scriptures (he even learned Sanskrit to study them in the original language).

And when the first atomic bomb ever was tested, on July 16, 1945, in a portion of the southern New Mexican desert known as the Jornada del Muerto — the “Journey of the Dead Man” — the pre-dawn sky was lit with the light of a thousand suns, like no light anyone had ever seen before, observers said.

The scientists that day were not sure at all of what would happen. There was a type of “office lottery” prior to the blast in which they guessed what the result of the test might be. A few said the bomb would be a dud, and not explode at all. Others guessed, correctly, that it would explode more or less as it did, with more or less the temperature and shock wave that was produced. But others said they thought it might set off an unstoppable chain reaction which might even consume the earth itself.

In other words, the scientists were, in a sense, “playing games” with the fate of our entire world.

And yet, they set it off.

The code-name for the test was “Trinity” — yes, “Trinity,” the name of the Christian God, the “three in one” — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And so, in a sense, this test bore the name, at least in part, of Jesus Christ, the “Son” in the Holy Trinity.

Was the name “Trinity” chosen in mockery?

Or did perhaps the choosers of the name imagined they were greater than the Trinity itself, since they were the planners, organizers and the executors of this unprecedented “Trinity”?

The exact origin of the name “Trinity” for this test is unknown, but it is most often attributed to Oppenheimer himself.

It is thought to have been drawn from the poetry of John Donne (1572-1631), an English preacher and the leader of a group of so-called “metaphysical poets” in his time, whose poetry is by turns witty, profound, mystical and beautiful.

Oppenheimer knew the poetry of Donne well; he was steeped in it.

Almost 20 years after the “Trinity” test, in 1962, General Leslie Groves (the military head of the Manhattan Project to build the bomb), wrote to Oppenheimer (the scientific director), asking about the origin of the name “Trinity,” and elicited this reply:

“I did suggest it… Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death, which I know and love. From it a quotation:

‘As West and East,
In all flatt Maps (and I am one) are one,
So death doth touch the Resurrection.’

“That still does not make a Trinity, but in another, better known devotional poem, Donne opens, ‘Batter my heart, three person’d God;—.'”

The phrase “three-personed God” is, of course, a reference to the Trinity, the God in three persons.

So, in this correspondence, Oppenheimer acknowledges that he chose the name “Trinity” under the influence of Donne’s poetry, as a reference to the Christian God, then detonated the first atomic bomb.

And, at the moment the bomb went off, Oppenheimer thought of some lines he had studied in the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu divinity, tells Arjuna, “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.”

Man had harnessed the power at the heart of matter by dividing what the Greeks, by definition, taught was indivisble, the atom itself.

And with that power, they could bring instantaneous and certain death…

“I am become Death”

Three weeks later, the Americans dropped their new bomb on a Japanese city — without any prior warning whatsoever, so as to ensure the highest possible number of casualties.

Today is the 65th anniversary of that bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

On this day 65 years ago, a bomb dubbed “Little Boy” exploded above that southern Japanese city (Monday will be the anniversary of the August 9, 1945, explosion of a second atomic bomb, dubbed “Fat Man,” over Nagasaki).

Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 — the Feast of the Assumption.

The population of Hiroshima had reached a peak of over 381,000 earlier in the war, but prior to the atomic bombing the population had steadily decreased because of a systematic evacuation ordered by the Japanese government. At the time of the attack the population was approximately 340,000–350,000.

The release of the bomb came at 08:15 (Hiroshima time) — early morning.

The bomb contained just 60 kilograms (130 lb) of uranium-235 — this means that the material which destroyed Hiroshima was only about the size of an average briefcase.

The bomb took 43 seconds to fall from the aircraft to the predetermined detonation height about 1,900 feet (580 m) above the city.

The bomb instantly killed as many as 100,000 people in Hiroshima, most of them civilians.

The blast, many millions of degrees in temperature, hotter than the surface of the sun, instantly vaporized those near its epicenter.

People, including many thousands of school children who had just arrived at school and were sitting at their desks, were simply incinerated — turned into tiny particles of dust — in less than a second.

Dorothy Day on the Atom Bomb at Hiroshima

by Dorothy Day

(Note: This is the article that the American Catholic convert Dorothy Day wrote just after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. She begins by commenting on the reaction of US President Harry Truman to the news of the destruction of the two Japanese cities. The figure of 318,000 she gives for the number killed was what was first reported in the press; the figure was later reduced. This is how one serious Catholic at that time reacted to these events; I make no further comment.)

Mr. Truman was jubilant. President Truman. True man; what a strange name, come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from table to table on the cruiser which was bringing him home from the Big Three conference, telling the great news; “jubilant” the newspapers said. Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese.

That is, we hope we have killed them, the Associated Press, on page one, column one of the Herald Tribune says. The effect is hoped for, not known. It is to be hoped they are vaporized, our Japanese brothers, scattered, men, women and babies, to the four winds, over the seven seas. Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York on our faces, feel them in the rain on the hills of Eaton.

Jubilate Deo. President Truman was jubilant. We have created. We have created destruction. We have created a new element, called Pluto. Nature had nothing to do with it.

The papers list the scientists (the murderers) who are credited with perfecting this new weapon. Scientists, army officers, great universities, and captains of industry — all are given credit lines in the press for their work of preparing the bomb — and other bombs, the President assures us, are in production now.

Everyone says, “I wonder what the Pope thinks of it?” How everyone turns to the Vatican for judgment, even though they do not seem to listen to the voice there! But our Lord Himself has already pronounced judgment on the atomic bomb. When James and John (John the beloved) wished to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, Jesus said:

“You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save.” He said also, “What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me.”

(Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXV, No. 5, July-August 2005. (Reprinted from The Catholic Worker, September 1945)

“Skin Melting”

“If you cut off a piece of fingernail and burn it…that’s what burning human flesh smells like,” said Seiko Fujimoto, who was just three years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Even so, her memories of that day are vivid: “If you ask me to draw a picture of what I saw, I could do it perfectly. There were people holding their hands out in front of them, skin melting off their bodies…watering holes overflowing with corpses.”

She pauses and adds, “To this day, I can hear people moaning “mizu… mizu” (water, water).

(from a recent article by Tara Shiina Morimoto Wakely in the Nichi Bei Times in San Francisco)

The Only Time

Only on these two occasions, 65 years ago, have atomic weapons ever been used.

But since 1945, man has developed thermonuclear bombs thousands of times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and there are thousands of these weapons in the major nuclear arsenals around the world.

The Feast of the Transfiguration

August 6, 2010
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Reading 1, Old Testament

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

As I watched:
Thrones were set up
and the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was bright as snow,
and the hair on his head as white as wool;
his throne was flames of fire,
with wheels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended him.
The court was convened and the books were opened.

As the visions during the night continued, I saw:

One like a Son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
The one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;
all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.

Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 9 Responsorial Psalm

R. (1a and 9a) The Lord is king, the Most High over all the earth.

The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many islands be glad.
Clouds and darkness are round about him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. The Lord is king, the Most High over all the earth.

The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. The Lord is king, the Most High over all the earth.

Because you, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth,
exalted far above all gods.
R. The Lord is king, the Most High over all the earth.

Reading 2, Epistle

2 Peter 1:16-19

We did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.
You will do well to be attentive to it,
as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Reading 3, Gospel

Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up a mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.

The Obliteration of Hiroshima and the Transfiguration of Christ

Some matters cannot be spoken of without diminishing them.

Between Hiroshima and Christ,
between “Trinity” and the Trinity,
between scientists humbly seeking truth
and scientists harnessing unprecedented powers
to “become as gods” or even “Death,”
there is an unfathomable connection.

What it is may not be expressed in words.

There is only sorrow, and silence.

Brief note: If you would like to travel with us for several days in Italy and Vatican City during the next year, we are still taking  requests for our Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 pilgrimages. If you would like information about these trips, email us at: pilgrimage@insidethevatican.com
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” —Blaise Pascal (French mathematician, philosopher, physicist and writer, 1623-1662)

Best-Seller: A Talk by Dr. Robert Moynihan about the “Old Mass” on CD

Unexpectedly, this little talk has become a minor “best-seller.”

We have now produced more than 5,000 of these CDs, and they are still running out every few days. Why?
Evidently, people really like this talk!
It is called: “The Motu Proprio: Why the Latin Mass? Why Now?”

In this talk, Dr. Moynihan gives a 2,000-year history of the Mass in 60 minutes which is clear and easy to understand. The talk covers questions like:

— Does the motu proprio overcome some of the liturgical confusion since Vatican II?
— Who was Annibale Bugnini?

— The mind of Pope Benedict: How can the Church restore the sense of the presence of God in the liturgy?

Special note: Three years ago, we participated in a concert in Rome (on March 29, 2007) in which a Russian choir and orchestra, flying in from Moscow, performed a new version of The Passion According to St. Matthew composed a few months before by the young Russian Orthodox bishop (now Metropolitan and “foreign minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hilarion Alfeyev).
That moving concert, in which one or two of the exhausted women singers fainted on stage and had to be carried off, was broadcast live worldwide via a Vatican Television Center feed by EWTN.
No DVD or CD was ever made of that concert — until a few months ago. After several years, we have  produced the DVD and CD of that historic concert, and they are now available for sale.
I believe the sound of this music, and the sight of the performance, especially during Holy Week, when we recall Christ’s Passion, will bring tears to your eyes.
The DVD and CD of this historic concert are now available on at website at the following link: https://www.insidethevatican.com/products/concerts-dvd-cd.htm
Other Gift Ideas:

Christmas Oratorio (Russian Concert) on DVD 

On December 17, 2007, a leading Russian orchestra performed an exceptional “world premiere” concert of Russian Christmas music at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Now you can order your copy of the concert on DVD, which includes English sub-titles.

The music is a completely new composition by a young Russian Orthodox Archbishop, Hilarion Alfeyev, 43. At the time, he was the Russian Orthodox bishop for all of central Europe, based in Vienna, Austria. He is now a Metropolitan and the head of the External Relations Department of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Makes a wonderful gift. Order one for yourself, one for a loved one and one for a friend… at three copies, the price is less! Click here to order
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