How long shall I be in the world of the voice and not of the world of the word? For everything that is seen is voice and is spoken with the voice, but in the invisible world there is no voice, for not even voice can utter its mystery. How long shall I be voice and not silence, when shall I become word in an awareness of hidden things; when shall I be raised up to silence, to something which neither voice nor word can bring?
John the Solitary 5th c., from Sebastian Brock, 'John the Solitary, On Prayer', Journal of Theological Studies, New Series, 30 (1979), 84-101, p. 87, with thanks to Voice in the Wilderness
Word without voice? Word as silence?
Sometimes I think music subsists as much in its silences as in its sounds: beyond the attack and decay of a note is the time before it was sounded, and the time after. Beyond its pitch is an infinity of vibrations that are not sound; beyond its scale degree are uncountable microtones.
We are this kind of thing ourselves – there was a time when each of us was not, and there will be a time after us, and yet our limited lives are shot through with eternity. A bit of the Spirit – who, being spirit, cannot be divided – is in each who lives, human or otherwise (Psalm 104.30), and so the perishable will somehow put on imperishability (1 Corinthians 15.42ff), and we shall “become word in an awareness of hidden things” – not in these glimpses, reflections in broken water, but in steady truth and certain rest, and
“God himself will be with [us];
he will wipe every tear from [our] eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
Just as the Kingdom is here, and yet to come, within us, yet about to break upon us, so we live in eternal life even now: our little, sleep-rounded lives lie in the palm of that piercèd hand that made the vaults of Orion, the unimaginable distances and lambent deeps of interstellar space. Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made…