Word Waves

For the longest time we could not see.

For the longest time we could not see the things we hear.

We could not see sound.

Did not know its pattern.

Did not know it traveled in waves.

Did not know its progress could be charted;

its speed clocked at 340-some-odd metres per second.

For the longest time we could not see.


Then, in time, we saw.

We learned to measure

sound.  We learned to map it,

and to chart its progress;

to measure its speed.

We discovered we could watch it.

And we did.

But for the longest time we could not see;

we could not see the things we hear.


And now, not only can we see

the things we hear,

we can outrun them,

overtake them,

and leave them behind.

But for the longest time, we could not.

We could not see the things we hear.

We could only listen, and be dazzled by them.


We imagine that what is true of sound

is also true of God:

that we have overtaken him;

outrun him,

left him behind.

Many people imagine this.


We have become too smart for God,

the story goes.

We are too sophisticated

to believe such foolishness.

And after all,

we overtook sound long ago.

Light cannot be so far behind.

It is only a matter of time.


Somewhere, deep in the ingredients of stars,

there is an echo, or a wave

that you could hear, or see,

if you could find it.

It sounds like the beginning,

which is a mystery,

since eternity has no beginning,

and no ending.


But the echo, or the wave,

sounds like the beginning,

sounds like the origin,

of something God spake,

when God first began to speak

his eternal wisdom,

that has no beginning,

and no ending,

although the sound itself

is both, beginning and ending.


The sound captured in the echo, or the wave,

existed in God always,

even when he had not yet spoken it.


Don’t you see?  Can’t you hear?

Although, for the longest time, we could not?


I suppose there are sounds

too high and too low for us to hear;

waves too fast or too slow

for us to measure, to see.

I suppose the sound of God speaking

was like slowing it down,

or speeding it up,

to allow us to hear it,

to allow us to see it,

though for the longest time

we neither heard nor saw.

Not even the echo.

Not even the wave.


We are deaf and we are blind.

But, if only we were dumb,

we might not say the foolish things

we say about God,

and what’s on his mind,

and what he sounds like,

and what he looks like.

We might not have to use

a personal pronoun

when we refer to him in speech.


Speaking about God

is something better left to God.

Which may be why once he spake

the Word that had always dwelt deep within him,

that has its origins in the echo or the wave

that has always been,

has no beginning or end,

though he is Alpha and Omega.


The Prologue of the final Gospel

is not a speech.

It is a drawing

of the sound of God’s voice.

It is the urgent wave

sketched out,

to enable the blind to see,

to assist the deaf in our hearing.

Because for the longest time we could not see.

And we could not have heard it,

even if we had tried,

since the sound was still deep inside

the mind of God.


John was drawing the waves

of the sound,

as the Word pulsed through him:

up from the deepest places of the planet.

His naked feet measuring

the seismic movement,

and his hands

recording it for posterity.


I am trying to draw the waves

of that sound for you now,

using words,

that are neither fast enough

nor slow enough,

to do it justice.

But which have been slowed down

enough, or sped up

enough, so that we can hear,

and which will help us (I hope) to see.

Because for the longest time

we have done neither.


We have not outrun the Word.

We have not overtaken it.

We have by no means left it behind.

We have barely begun to grasp

its sound.  And it remains beyond

our reach – although it is very near us.


We imagine that having seen it,

having measured its waves,

and sized it up, and recorded its light,

that we have taken charge

of it, and everything.

Since for so long we could not see.


Men have always thought this;

ever since the sound could be heard,

the light seen.  We thought

we could douse it,

silence it, turn it on

or off at our pleasure.

As though it was only sound,

only light, only echo, only waves.


But it is more

than sound, more

than light, more

than echo, more

than wave.


It is dancing, it is justice, it is

fellowship, it is mercy, it is

learning, it is kindness, it is

softness, it is sharp, it is

virtue, it is humility, it is

beauty, it is darkness, it is

generosity, it is tenderness, it is

hope, it is solace, it is

friendship, it is healing, it is

relief and reinforcement, it is

silence, it is power, it is

music, it is touch, it is

water, it is air, it is

soil, and it is fire, it is

grace upon grace, and

grace upon grace, and

grace upon grace.


It is immeasurable, unknowable,

unstoppable, inaudible, inflammable.

For the longest time it was beyond us.

But then God spake,

and give it to us,

gave him to us.

Slowed down, or sped up, so we could

see, and hear, and touch,

and feel, and know, and love.


The Word is yours, and mine:

very near us, on our lips, and,

sometimes, in our hearts,

if we will have him,

if we will dare to speak

the Word that God once spake,

and call his Name,

which is Emmanuel, God with us -

but, slowed down, or sped up,

so that we can see it, measure it,

hold it, love it, be dazzled by it -

is Jesus.


He is the Word

that became flesh,

and dwelt among us.

And we beheld its glory.

Full of grace and truth.

And from his fullness have we all

received grace upon grace.

Thanks be to God.


Preached by Fr. Sean Mullen

29 December 2013

Saint Mark's Church, Philadelphia

Posted on December 29, 2013 .