The heavens declare the glory of God;
the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.
Day unto day pours forth speech;
night unto night whispers knowledge.
There is no speech, no words;
their voice is not heard;
A report goes forth through all the earth,
their messages, to the ends of the world.
He has pitched in them a tent for the sun.
Psalm 19: 2-5
I’m a day late with this one. We always read this psalm on the feast of an apostle, and yesterday for the Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude I wound up hearing it twice. It doesn’t seem to fit, at first. The psalmist writes of the silent proof of God through the transition from day to night to day. This daylight pours forth “speech” which is “no speech”; night “whispers” “no words.” So why read this psalm on feasts celebrating verbal evangelization, the certain missioning of Christ’s apostles to the ends of the earth? Light touches all things, the psalmist writes. The message goes “to the ends of the world.” Why rely on words now?
At the arrival of the Word, rather, at His Incarnation, words changed significantly. The creating Word that spoke forth the light and the darkness, separated them simply by willing it, now speaks with a human tongue, and He sends forth other human beings to do the same. My friend Maria writes that “the Incarnation continues,” and at least one part of that puzzling phrase is the dignity God has bestowed on man in Christ, making us “little less than a God” (Psalm 8:6). “And nothing would again be casual and small,” writes Fr. John Duffy in his poem “Annunciation,” “But everything with light invested, overspilled.” God is continually reaffirming dignity, sending the Holy Spirit who will tell us “what [we] are to say” (Mt. 10:17), and so empowering our words, or, rather, gracing them.
The light moves quickly over the land as the sun rises. We can’t perceive its speed. Our efforts to evangelize, in contrast, seem slow and plodding. And so I don’t know that the light spilling over is our “success” or human efforts, but rather the sureness in the heart that something new has happened, that mankind is forever changed in a moment. This moment is also a sunrise, a sudden burst that illumines all.