It was even more amazing to stumble upon the realization that, as millions upon millions of people around the globe were also watching the scene unfold, many were praying together via FaceBook and Twitter and Instant Messages and Texting.
I found it absolutely stunning to think that an entire world-wide community of prayer had sprung up, ex nihilo, to focus its spiritual energies on the rescue efforts of the 33 miners who had been trapped 2,000 feet below under the hard volcanic rock there for more than two months - 69 days to be exact.
I keep hearing people comparing the images of those men coming out of the ground with the biblical story of Lazarus. Even most secular newspapers repeated the analogy of the story of the miners with the story of the man whom Jesus resurrected from the dead.
I have another image, not of death to resurrected life, but rather, one of a second nativity - a new or re-birth. As I caught glimpses of the miracle of the men emerging from the hole in the ground, images of the miraculous birth in a stable in Bethlehem entertained my thoughts.
Already, their lives have changed.
The NY Times reported this morning that rewards are being offered to the men. Each of the miners has already had more than $10,000 deposited into their bank accounts, a gift from Leonardo Farkas, a Chilean businessman.
A Greek mining company, Elmin Hellenic Mining Enterprises, has offered a free one-week vacation to Greece for each miner and a companion, so that they could “enjoy our sun and sea” after their long ordeal.
The men have also been invited to attend soccer games in Britain and Spain, and Apple has sent each man a latest generation iPod touch. Other lucrative gifts resulting in book deals, compensation for appearances on television shows, etc., are, no doubt, in their future.
Even a striptease artist has offered to perform privately and individually for each of the rescued miners. “It’s something to improve their spirits, one dance for each of the 33, in private,” Ms. Barrientos told La Cuarta, a Chilean newspaper. “The government should take care of them for life, so they never have to work again and can live a dignified life.”
I'm not sure of her logic, but then again, I don't have to. Everyone, it seems, has been swept up by the spirit of the re-birth in the copper and gold mine in Chile.
Former Argentina soccer coach Diego Maradona sent a message saying that the miners’ liberation after 69 days underground “was proof that miracles exist and you are one of them.”
A miracle is an unexpected event - something fortuitous - attributed to divine intervention. John Polkinghorne, the scientist-theologian, suggests that miracles are not violations of the laws of nature but an "exploration of a new regime of physical experience".
Scripture is full of stories of miracles - beginning with the story of the miracle of Creation, including the life, death, ministry and resurrection of Jesus.
The story of the rescue of the thirty-three miners in Copiapó, Chile is, for me, more like the miracle of the feeding of the thousands. Quaker author Parker Palmer talks about the "miracle" of the multitudes - recounted in all four gospels - as the miracle of the first act of community organizing by Jesus.
Palmer postulates that everyone in that crowd had probably brought some food with them - so the miracle was not about the sudden appearance of food. The real miracle was that Jesus got everyone to sit down in small groups, open their stashes, and share what they had in common with each other. When that happens, Palmer says, we discover the miracle of God's abundance: that there is - we already have - more than enough for everyone.
I think that's the real miracle of Copiapó, Chile. People from around the world came together to lend their expertise, to contribute what they could - machinery, supplies, money, support for the families who lived while waiting at Camp Esperanza - and, in working together, helped to save lives.
Perhaps even more was saved than 33 lives locked in the darkness of a mine. Perhaps, if we pay close attention, we just may witness the rebirth or resurrection of the world's sense of community. Of belonging. Of connection, one to another. Of responsibility for and to each other.
Perhaps the real miracle of Copiapó, Chile is that the world prayed together, worked together to save lives and inspire people join them in prayer.
In bringing the world to pray together in small groups and bringing people from all over the world together to save lives, the miracle of Copiapó, Chile is that our fears about what tomorrow might or might not bring, our timidity when the face of darkness and light co-mingle, and our obsession with death were all reframed.
We just may be witnessing a world-wide rebirth of Esperanza - Hope - in a world which has been reeling from a culture entrenched in despair and war and death.
As I thought about those 33 men sitting for 69 days in the darkness of a mine under 2,000 feet of volcanic rock, I thought of the words of two women writers.
The first is Marge Piercy's poem 'Councils':
The second is Melanie Braverman, a Provincetown writer, who once wrote:We must sit down and reason together.Perhaps we should sit in the dark. In the dark we could utter our feelingsIn the dark we could propose and describe and suggest.In the dark we could not see who speaks and only the words would say what they say.No one would speak more than twice. No one would speak less than once.Thus saying what we feel and what we want,what we fear for ourselves and each other into the dark,perhaps we could begin to begin to listen.The women must learn to dare to speak. The men must learn to bother to listen.The women must learn to say “I think this is so.”The men must learn to stop dancing solos on the ceiling.After each speaks, she or he will say a ritual phrase:It is not I who speaks but the wind.Wind blows through me.Long after me, is the wind.
"Look for your soul's intelligence and move toward it. It probably is located somewhere in the vicinity of your terror."We still have much to learn from the Chilean miners and their families. Their stories will unfold in the next days and weeks and months ahead. And we will sit, fascinated, listening and learning.
Having learned something anew about the power of prayer, some of us may even continue to pray together. Perhaps a world-wide community of prayer has been established. Didn't Jesus say something about faith having the power to uproot trees and move mountains? Apparently, it can also cut through 2,000 feet of hard volcanic rock.
Perhaps. . . just perhaps . . . finding our souls' intelligence begins with learning how to sit in the dark with our terror and instead of lashing out against our fears. We might, instead, begin to learn how to work together to bring about a peaceful solution for each of the multiple problems of the world.
And that, I think, would be the greatest miracle of all.