A team of Chinese scientists has discovered a GIANT new sinkhole with a whole forest at its bottom.
The sinkhole is 630 feet (192 meters) deep, deep enough to swallow the St. Louis Gateway Arch. A team of speleologists and spelunkers rappelled into the sinkhole on May 6th of this year, discovering that there are three cave entrances in the chasm, as well as ancient trees up to 131 feet tall, stretching their branches toward what little sunlight comes filtering through the sinkhole entrance.
Although finding a large forest underground seems like it would come as a shock to most of us, one of the scientists on the team said that this discovery was no surprise. This is because of the landscape of southern China. This area is home to karst topography, a landscape prone to dramatic sinkholes and otherworldly caves. Karst landscapes are formed primarily by the dissolution of bedrock, a solid material that lies underneath the looser surface material. Rainwater, which is slightly acidic, picks up carbon dioxide as it runs through the soil, continuing to grow in acidity. It then flows through cracks in the bedrock, slowly widening them into tunnels and voids. Over time, if a cave chamber gets large enough, the ceiling can gradually collapse, opening up huge sinkholes.
The sinkhole's interior is 1,004 feet long and 492 feet wide. The Mandarin word for such enormous sinkholes is "tiankeng," or "heavenly pit," and that seems fitting since the bottom of the sinkhole did indeed seem like other worldly. Karst caves and sinkholes can provide an oasis for life.
Recently I moved and so now that I'm in Kansas I am looking for a new home. Yes I'm looking for a physical house, but I am also looking for a new church community. Being me, I have a spreadsheet with many different criteria comparing the different churches of the diocese. What shape is their church, round or all facing forward? Do they have a school attached? What type of music ministry do they have?
Although I am making all of these judgements to help me make my decision, the beautiful truth is that just like that forest underground, underneath all of these physical things going on is something beautiful, in this case, the heavenly Mass. At each of these churches, no matter if they have guitars or chant the Mass parts, the miracle of Christ's death and resurrection is still being celebrated and enjoined with the heavenly celebration of the feast. This perfect gift is there, no matter if the carpet looks straight out of the 1970s handbook.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of the truth before us because we get so caught up in the physical details of a Mass that we forget the life-changing miracle happening right under our noses. We go through the motions without thinking about what is right there in front of us. I look to the Saints to shake me out of my stupor.
St. John Vianney said, “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”
Right in front of us is our Lord in the bread and wine. Right in front of us is the God most high. Do we see that? St. Angela of Foligno said, “If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament [of the Eucharist], I am sure that the thought of Christ's love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.”
Each time we attend a Mass, our lives should be changed. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.”
Let us take these quotes as a challenge. Pray with them. Then as we go to Mass on Sunday let’s be sure to celebrate the beauty of what is right there, less hidden than the sinkhole.