Science echoes Scripture in the story of the origin of life on Earth – Monsignor McGuinness

03 Jul 2024

Caption Monsignor Joseph McGuinness celebrates the Eucharist during the opening Mass of the Irish Church Music Summer School 2024, in the College Chapel of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth (Catholic Communications Office archive)

The 54th Irish Church Music Association’s summer school takes place this week in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, with the theme ‘Water of Life’.   The chief celebrant at the opening Mass in the historic and beautiful College Chapel was Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, the Executive Secretary of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. 
During his homily Monsignor McGuinness said, “the American chemist Stanley Miller’s experiment in 1952 involving a sealed container, methane, ammonia, hydrogen, water and electric discharges, found traces in the water residue of amino acids, building blocks of proteins, the basic components of living things.  What Miller had done was to demonstrate how the extraordinary complexity of life on Earth might have begun to emerge from the waters of the oceans.  It seems to me to be a striking example of science echoing Scripture, for it reminds me of the image of the Spirit of God hovering over the chaos of the waters at the beginning of the world, bringing order out of chaos and creating the environment in which life could emerge and thrive.
“Our Gospel reading, wherein we witness Jesus calming the storm, brings to mind this creation story in Genesis, where God’s Spirit hovers over the waters and one of the first acts of God is to impose order on the water, dividing it between the heavens and the earth.  In the Gospel, Jesus demonstrates the power of the Creator over the turbulence of the sea and imposes calm and order.
“The account in the book of Genesis reminds us of how, from the very beginning of the world, water has been essential to the emergence and sustaining of life. Throughout the Old and New testaments, water figures, both literally and metaphorically, as an eloquent sign and symbol of the power of God’s Spirit. “Out of the many examples, we might think of:
– Creation, when the waters are separated and order is brought out of chaos
– The Exodus, when the parting of the Red Sea waters saves God’s people
– The vision of Ezekiel, where the water from the Temple brings purification, nourishment and healing
– The presence of the Holy Spirit, hovering over Jesus as he emerges from the waters of his baptism
– The water at the marriage feast of Cana, transformed into the wine of joy
– The water of eternal life which Jesus promises to the Samaritan Woman at the well
– The water that Jesus uses to wash the feet of his disciples
– The water that flows from the side of the crucified Christ

“It is no wonder then, that water figures so prominently in the liturgy of the Church, as a sign of cleansing, purification, healing, service, renewal and life.
“What Stanley Miller’s experiment gave us is a small insight into the ingenuity of the mind of the Creator; In the beauty and bounty of the Earth’s waters we catch a glimpse of His majesty and power.  
Monsignor McGuinness concluded, “As so as we sing our praise to the Lord for the wonder of his Creation, let us be ever mindful of our responsibility for the care of that Creation.  As we sing our thanks to the Lord for the springs of earthly and eternal Life, may we be ever more committed to the defence and protection of all human life.  And, as we sing our joy to the Lord, may He continue to protect and refresh the life in each one of us, and guard us for life eternal.”
The school Director this year is the Irish liturgical music composer Bernard Sexton, who has been working in the area of sacred and choral music for the past twenty-five years.  The Irish Church Music Association was founded in November 1969 to support the work of musicians working in the field of liturgical music in Ireland.  Through training, publication and dissemination of information, the ICMA strives to improve standards and encourage musicians in their service of God and the community.  The ICMA is supported by the Bishops’ Conference and its membership comprises choir members from around the country and those interested in Church music. 

For more information on the ICMA please click here