Somewhere in the secret places of the universe
burns a fire beneath a kettle of strongest steel.
and in the kettle there simmers an elixir
comprising the most intense concentration
of all the love and grace of God, distilled,
and here, reducing to a version stronger still.
And when that lovely broth is cooked
down to only barely more than a vapor,
it is drawn into the nib of God’s finger,
to become the sanctified ink with which,
in elegant lettering, he spells out
across the parchment of his creation
that one perfect Word,
that contains the fullness of his own being,
in letters too small to be read,
but immense enough to encompass the universe.
The Word exists in every language and in none.
It is impossible to spell,
but tolerates any number of variant spellings.
It is uttered all over the world,
and yet it is unutterable -
defying feeble speech,
and the conventions of our language.
God never stops writing this sacred Word
and he never began.
From before time the ink was fermenting;
and for ever will the Lord draw more
into his almighty finger, to scrawl, or dab, or paint,
or illuminate the Word wherever it is called for,
and even where it is not.
And as he writes, does he also whisper, or shout,
to be carried on the wind, the sound of the Word
forever being written by his finger? Forever speaking it, too?
And did he not draw with that finger
the manger scene, with the exquisite figure
of a child - that perfect calligraphy of the Word
made flesh, breathing the same breath
that carries the living Word on the breeze?
He was in the world, but the world knew him not.
He came unto his own, but his own received him not.
And does not that Word still
glow with a light that enlightens us all?
The darkness comprehends it not;
the darkness cannot overcome it:
cannot overcome the light, the Word.
Nothing can overcome it. Do not be fooled.
Not a lazy church, or an overzealous evangelical.
Not a death sentence, or solitary confinement.
Not a lie, or insidious innuendo.
Not a cancerous cell, or a pain killer.
Not the changing climate; or the denial of it.
Not a bomb on a rocket, or one made at home.
Not a truck charging through the crowd,
or a man with a bump-stock, among other things,
on the thirty-second floor.
Not a fire coming down from the California hills,
or one raging into the upstairs apartments.
Not a man who thinks he can, when he should not.
And certainly not a tax bill, its carelessness codified.
Not warfare or murder; not fire or brimstone;
not injury, insult, or indignity; not unrequited love;
not loneliness, not grudge-bearing; not addiction, not jealousy;
not failure, and not fear;
not betrayal, and not even the loss of everything you own.
Not fire or flood, or the failure to have the correct insurance.
Not grief - no - not even that precious grief
of one taken too soon, no.
The darkness cannot overcome the light.
God knows it has tried.
And these few lines of mine - what weak potion
in comparison with the omnipotent ink of that eternal Word.
There comes a time when other words must bow
in deference to the one true Word:
prostrate themselves before it in humility and veneration.
For I will never in a lifetime manage to scribble or speak
so much as a jot or a tittle of that Word
that gave me all of mine. I am only trying to repeat
some small syllable, in hopes of making it repeatable
The closest we can come to the Word, I suppose is Love,
although that is not what the scholars say about it:
that’s not what it means.
Love is what the Word would signify to us,
if Love carried much meaning;
if we hadn’t made Love cheap,
by saying how much we love every damned thing;
when what we really mean is that we want to take
every damned thing for ourselves;
when there are only a few things we would give our selves for:
like our children. Maybe.
For Love is giving, not taking.
The Word was given to us. Just given.
No questions asked.
No need to ask for more - there is plenty to go around.
And while it can be easily ignored, written over, garbled;
It cannot be erased.
From God’s fullness we have all received grace upon grace,
which was grace upon grace, upon grace, upon grace,
before love was love, was love, was love,
to borrow a coined phrase.
Thanks be to God for the fire, and for the kettle;
for the liquid version of his grace and love,
distilled to almost a vapor.
Thanks be to God for the ink, and for the nib of his finger.
Thanks be to God for writing and speaking that Word
Thanks be to God for giving us power to become his children-
and if his children, then his heirs: born of his love.
Thanks be to God for the grace upon grace.
And thanks be to God for sending us
to dwell among us,
full of grace and truth.
Thanks be to God.
Preached by Fr. Sean Mullen
31 December 2017
Saint Mark's Church, Philadelphia