The Word (II)

In the beginning the stars were not yet shining.


In the beginning the silver wings of the Spirit

sliced through the mist

that hung over the face of the waters:

the vaporous breath of God, from which all things

came to be.


All the planets were contained

in a hazelnut, or less.


The mountains were collapsed

into a pebble, or less.


The seas were carefully hidden

beneath the surface of the waters,

themselves obscured

beneath the blurred horizon of the mist.


The rivers swirled in tiny vortices,

waiting to be unfurled,

that would fit in a demitasse, or less.


The trees of all the forests were packed tight,

in the space of a single seed, or less.


The birds’ wings were folded;

their feathers un-fluffed.

The fishes’ scales stacked away,

in poker chip piles too small to see, or less.


Every living creature waited

in the miniscule wings of creation;

in a minute green room,

or something less.


The first man, first woman

curled up in the so-far un-realized basinet

of God’s imagination.


And the Spirit’s silver wings beat silently,

and the waters rippled

beneath his glide,

in the long and ageless moments

before the beginning,

and the stars were not yet shining.



Into this silence a Word

was spoken,




Before the “let there be”s,

before the Light;

in the beginning was the Word.



May I speak of the things that were

before I was, or any of us?

May I presume to know something

about what it sounded like,

emanating from the mind and mouth of God,

hanging in the mist,

and dropping into the waters

to stir them,

and loose the whole creation?


I may.  Only because

I have been told, as you have been,

that it was so in the beginning.


And because, like you,

I have been allowed to imagine

what that Word sounds like,

what it looks like,

how it’s spelled.


I have, in fact, been invited

to try to spell it myself;

to live every day

perfecting my penmanship

so that I can write the Word

in my own life;

pronouncing it in the mirror,

so that I can master its vowels,

and include all its consonants.

And so have you.


To do this would mean to shape every day

of our lives by the contours of this Word:

faith, hope, love,

there may be others,

but these three abide,

enough for us to try to wrangle,

especially the greatest of them.


May I sing of this Word

in a long and melismatic melody,

worthy of the Word?


May I stretch out my song

as the Word reached out

the long arms of its letters

through every aeon of time?


May I delight to shout

the Good News

that I myself have encountered this Word

in the fold of my family,

around my own dinner table,

on a mountain in the northwest,

in disc of bread and a sip of wine,

and on the way to Santiago,

to name a few places?


I may.  Only because

if I did not the stones themselves

would cry out,

as these carved ones have been trained to do.

And once you have trained a stone,

it is very, very good

at doing what you have trained it to do,

over and over.


But I rejoice

that though I am less steadfast

than the stones,

I have more modes to sing in

than they do.

And so do you.


I can sing of the stars,

I can sing of the angels,

I can sing of the shepherds,

I can sing of Mary and of Joseph,

I can sing of the inn-keeper, if I want,

and make them all syllables of the Word.


For they all help to spell out the Word,

and the mystery

of how the Word became flesh

and dwelt among us.


I can sing of the beginning

of all things,

and of what was

before the beginning,

wound tight in a tiny ball of string theory,

or less.


I can sing, because

in the beginning,

when the Word echoed across the waters,

the blessed Son of God held all things

in the space of his infant hand, or less;

even you and me.


And when the mist rang out

with the “let there be”s,

the Spirit’s mighty wings

towing them across the waters,

the Word flung open its tiny hand,

unleashing the forces of creation,

and lit the stars, so they could shine

with awesome candle-power.


And more amazing than the trick

of lighting up the sky with stars was this:

he made the likes of you and me.

And for a long time,

it was as though we were failed stars,

flung out, but crashed and burned,

on this one planet;

so much unrealized potential.

And sometimes it still feels this way:

like we are lumps of primordial carbon

that never bust into starlight.


There is still so much darkness,

that feels like the darkness that must have surrounded the un-lit stars,

like deep caverns

where they may have been stored

before being cast aloft.


In our deep caverns of darkness

there is the sound of gunfire,

there are slogans of ethnic hatred,

there is hunger in a land of plenty,

there are schools that could be built,

but no one who is willing to build them,

there are addictions

of the most exotic and mundane varieties,

there is a narrow pride

that would rather be self-righteous than sorry,

and a thousand other shades of black

that makes for such alluring darkness.


Have we lived long enough

in the darkness?

Have our eyes become so accustomed to it

that we did not notice the Light shining

in the darkness,

and that the darkness has not overcome it?


To us, in our darkness,

was sent the Word made flesh,

spoken with the soft gurgles of an infant,

written in the pinks and baby blues

of a nursery,

armored with nothing

but the soft skin,

as soft as any other baby’s bottom.


And all we have to do

is receive him;

is believe on his Name,

and in return we are given power

by the one who lit the un-lit stars in heaven:

power to become

the un-gendered sons of God.


In the beginning the stars were not yet shining.

And the Word had been spoken,

but was, as yet, un-born.


But now the stars are brightly shining,

and the Word is made flesh

and dwells among us.

And if we attend, if we listen, and pray

we can behold his glory,

we can know his grace, his truth;

from his fullness we can all receive

grace upon grace…


…and we can hardly know what that means,

until we open our mouths

with the stars of the morning,

and all the sons of heaven,

and sing!



Preached by Fr. Sean Mullen

27 December 2009

Saint Mark’s, Philadelphia

Posted on December 27, 2009 .