The Evidence for Life

Like many modern people, I watch with some interest when there is another report back from the Mars Rover: “Will we find life on Mars?” Somehow I doubt it. I doubt life on Mars precisely because it is so hard to find. Our experience here on our home planet is that you cannot get away from life: it’s everywhere. We have gone to great depths in the oceans, measured waters of extreme temperature over sulphur spouts from the deep earth and – found life. The most barren landscapes are only barren to the cursory glance. If we pause and draw close, life is always present. Generally, it is not just present, it is teaming. Anyone who has responsibility for preventing infections knows – life is not only present here – it is almost impossible to remove.

In the creation story (the third day) we hear:

“Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good…

We live in a place that was blessed by a Divine command to “bring forth.” And it does – relentlessly. I have no idea whether anywhere else in all creation received a similar command. There are reasons to think not (the so-called anthropic principle) but no reasons to assume that this is correct. We just don’t know.

But we do have experience of what it is like to live on a planet where life exists. It is not rare. Though individually fragile, it seems to have doggedly survived every imaginable catastrophe (asteroids, global climate change, unending political campaigns).

I think that it is not just life that has this capacity. Beauty seems to share somehow in this resolute stubbornness. Despite our most horrific efforts to distort and disfigure our lives and the things around us – beauty still seems to emerge. I wonder how some people manage to sing – and yet the beauty of the human song is unrivaled by the song of any other animal.

Earlier tonight I watched a small video about some young people in Paraguay, whose families live at the city’s trash dump. The families live by recycling trash. They have found ways to make musical instruments from discarded items (the fact that life under such circumstances spends time to make instruments is extraordinary). I listened to Vivaldi, played by young people on instruments of trash. A young girl said, “Without music, my life would be worthless.”

That the word music remains in the vocabulary of someone born to the trash heaps of the modern world is evidence for life and the nature of the life that has been blessed to come forth.

Our salvation has a similar quality. The worst definition of salvation is a “reward after death.” It does almost no justice to the teaching of Scripture and trivializes the work of Christ. Our salvation has an eternal aspect – which is more a description of quality than quantity. Salvation is an existence that transcends time and is united to the timelessness of the Uncreated. As such, this same quality continues to manifest itself within and around us, despite our best efforts to destroy and damn ourselves.

This quality is the resurrection of Christ. It is present in His Pascha, trampling down death by death. It is life coming forth from the total emptiness of Hades. It is present even in the words at the beginning: “Let there be light!” For the words of creation’s beginning are spoken through Him and by Him and for Him. The act of creation is itself an icon and foreshadowing of His great and holy Pascha. Creation is existence from non-existence even as Pascha is life from death.

And this is the quality that does not disappear and will not be denied. Just as I see daily the overwhelming evidence of the existence of life, so I see daily the overwhelming evidence of the triumph of Christ’s life.

He has come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Life indeed!


  1. says

    He that is full empties Himself, for He empties Himself of His glory for a short while, that I may have a share of His fullness. What is the riches of His goodness? What is the mystery that is around me? I had a share in that image; but I did not keep it……

    (Gregory Nazianzen “The Word Partakes of My Flesh to Save the Image and to Make the Flesh Immortal”)


  2. Byron Gaist says

    Thank you for addressing the theological aspects of a current scientific issue, Fr Stephen. If you have more thoughts on space and cosmology, please do share them with your readers. I personally always look forward to your blog entries!