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Life from Light: Advent hope in a world of crushing darkness

This life was the light of the human race.” — John 1:4

If by profession or hobby you are a speleologist, then you probably already know that Vietnam is home to the world’s largest cave, called Sơn Đoòng. Sơn Đoòng means “Mountain River Cave.” It is approximately nine kilometers long, its largest chamber is 200 meters high and 150 meters wide, and it contains stalagmites up to 70 meters tall. Having a lifelong aversion to the metric system, I just know that means the whole thing is “really big.”

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring feature of Sơn Đoòng, however, is that one of its chambers houses a subterranean forest! How is that possible? The cave is carved entirely out of limestone, which at certain points along the cave’s roof has proven too weak to stand the test of time and gravity. In the case of this particular chamber, a huge section of the roof has collapsed, allowing light to cascade two hundred meters from the ground-level opening, flooding the vast interior space below. The light makes it possible for life to emerge and thrive where otherwise all would have dark, dank, and lifeless.

A few years ago I watched a BBC video entitled “Life from Light,” in which a speleologist with a heavy Scottish accent marveled at his experience exploring a cave characterized only by darkness, stone, and water, and then suddenly coming upon what he described as a “wonderland” of life and light. There are a variety of animals and plants in the forest, including trees up to one hundred feet tall. The Scotsman concluded his description of the forest in a kind of reverie, exclaiming (for best results, imagine his Scottish accent), “It’s a thriving ecosystem here!” Another explorer with over thirty-five years of spelunking experience described Sơn Đoòng by calling it “overwhelming” and saying it is “by far one of the most unique and unusual caves I have ever seen.”

Read more at Catholic World Report. 

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