Finding the Annus Mirabilis

The world has faced many disease pandemics from the earliest civilizations to our present day. While most of these have brought chaos and uncertainty, something interesting happened during England’s last modern experience with plague. London’s plague of 1665-16666 was potentially shipped there on cotton barges from Amsterdam in the Netherlands sometime in 1665. As it had before, London once again faced the ravages of a bubonic plague outbreak. And while it would be the last major plague outbreak that London would face in modern times, it would cost the city a quarter of its population in less than 18 months.

Many people who had the means to escape the plague in London moved away to cities and towns in the countryside. One of these was Sir Issac Newton. He fled to his hometown of Woolsthorpe and settled into the relative safety of life in the English countryside. In that quiet, away from his laboratories and classrooms, Newton had time to stop and think, tons of it. With little to no responsibilities at hand, he began to muse on theories, ideas, and other things floating around in his head. According to a Washington Post article,

…Isaac Newton sat at a country estate with an apple tree. His reflections upon the forces between distant bodies, propelling them together and apart, gave us gravity and enfolded the moon and the apple in a shared system of invisible laws. He saw a spider’s web of formulas spinning across untold space, in which the stars hung like dewdrops, and from them beams of light pierced his own seclusion. All kinds of lofty things entered the brain of Isaac Newton, some of them traveling great distances, and when he emerged, science was permanently different. Such was the life of Isaac Newton during the plague year.[1]

That year came to be called Annus Mirabilis, the Year of Wonders. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the modern era had their birth in the fields and the skies above a Woolsthorpe estate during a horrific time of pandemic.

While we are not to fighting off the bubonic plague, we are dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak and all the difficulty that it brings. And one of the things it brings is an unexpected side effect that it brought to Newton in 1665: time. With everyone home from school, sports, and work in some cases, our most common commodity is the time. Think of all the times you have said, “If I had the time, I would…” Now, you can fill in that blank with extra time you have. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about being careful how you lived, to live as wise people who made the most of the time they had.[2]

What can you do with the time you have now? Will this be your own miniature version of Newton’s Year of Wonders? What doors of ministry and personal growth will God open to you and will you walk through them?


[2] Ephesians 5:15-16