John 1:1-5 (NRSV) - The Word Became Flesh
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."
How poetic, beyond all our thoughts and words there is something more, something full of mystery. Take a moment please and think of the Gospel of John, where it is written.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” Indeed, think about how God brought creation into existence, how God created your life and my life.
Genesis 1:1-3 (KJV) - In the Beginning
Before there was creation itself, there was a wordless nothingness, an openness waiting to be filled, a formless void.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light, and there was light”.
And creation was formed out of the formless void, and there with God in this moment of creation, in the beginning of all things, was the Eternal Word, perhaps born from a single desire and thought of God.
"In the beginning was the Word.”
As a person of any faith, have you ever thought of how your own relationship with creation is grounded in the Word or words, in poetic symbols and metaphors. And how your life arises in and through all your relationships, with all creation?
How words from any culture and sacred tradition form your concept of reality and construct your world. And that words, like sutras, bind the family of humankind together. When we take time to dwell on our relationships, even those beyond our immediate family and friends, we begin to see how life arises from these many interconnections. Words - Concepts - Images - Symbols - Metaphors.
Can you begin to imagine how you have touched my life, even if we have never met or spoken? Can you begin to imagine how you have touched the lives of other people too, and will continue to touch them?
This is how powerful relationships are in the world. This is the Word, the Holy Spirit, actively at work within the world. And then imagine, please, how our own thoughts become words of our own, shaping our world, shaping our lives, our communities, our reality.
We are all interconnected, perhaps even more so now, as we listen and come to know one another within any sacred community, as we listen to or even read each other’s words. Words have a life of their own, they shape our lives, and they interconnect us in marvelous ways.
This is why writers love to write and use words to express themselves, it is why people love poetry, good plays, a compelling novel or story, or any appreciable writing in which we form a connection with one another.
In Buddhism, this concept of our interconnectedness with life, all life, reality itself, out of which our lives arise, is called Dependent Origination or Dependent Arising, Pratītyasamutpāda in Sanskrit.
Dependent Arising is hard to wrap your mind around, unless you know and have the right vocabulary, unless you have devoted time and energy to understanding Buddhism's beautifully symbolic and complex language, its words.
For now, let’s simply say that it is a reality of shared interdependence and one that tells us, we are intimately interconnected to everything else in life, with one another, with all of creation. The Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, calls this concept interbeing, in his book, The Heart of Understanding, where he teaches that “To be” is to inter-be, and that “we cannot be alone, exist alone without anything else.”
In the Christian tradition, there is a remarkably similar and beautiful concept, it is found in a marvelous Greek word used by the early church fathers and mothers, to describe the mystery of the Trinity. It is the word, Perichoresis (peri-kor-es-is).
Perichoresis is an ancient term in Christian theology, which refers to the indwelling of the Trinity, of how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are so intimately connected within their unity as one that there is an indwelling between them all. And that this indwelling is shared with us, in and through Christ, in the Paschal Mystery of Christ as the Incarnate Word, the Word Made Flesh.
How poetic, since not one of us can imagine living without words, living a life without words in some form. It is a metaphor that points us towards the deeper mystery of creation, of the divine.
Let me go back, please to the wordless beginning of things, ultimate reality perhaps, to the Buddhist concept of Śūnyatā–Nirvana, emptiness, or rather the openness of creation that is ever changing and expanding. Endless, Worlds Without End, to use a poetic image.
I’m struggling for a clear image or a metaphor to use in this dialogue, and it’s hard for me to find one. This is why I love to write poetry, because poetry for me is a transformational and transcending language.
Perhaps it would help, as Christ or a Tibetan or Zen Master might, to have you visualize the emptiness or openness of an empty cup. The space that can be filled at any time, by anyone, by you, by God. This space, this openness, can be seen as the pure and infinite potential of all eternity, out of which all reality arises in an open universe of infinite possibilities, or even of a given intimate moment within eternity.
Now in this present moment, in these words, even in the spaces between each word. You may also visualize it as an empty cup, a cup that is ready to receive the new wine of life or hot jasmine tea.
What I’m trying to say, with all these words, is that sometimes we simply need to let go of all our words, all our images, all our thoughts, even becoming lost for a while. Becoming lost can be a goodly thing, a needful thing.
Because in doing so, we can develop a whole new language, and new images, like an artist, does when they are creating, be it a new symphony, improvisational jazz, a beautiful painting, a poem, a play, or a photograph that takes your breath away and leaves you speechless.
I love that feeling of speechlessness, of emptiness, of being empty and ready to receive the next new thing. The secret I think is in understanding that each moment is the next new thing. It is a moment that is open and full of infinite potential, a newness that is born out of every moment.
I love the dialog we may find within any sacred community, and the many gifts it brings us to discover such moments, to discover the newness of a moment, and to discover a new meaning in life within one another, new words even. Words that arise from a single point of emptiness and words that help us to shape the life we live into a new language, a new life.
Words that help us to breathe together as one body, with one breath, in one spirit. There is something truly sacramental and spirit driven, inspired, by such a dialog, by such relationships. It is an indwelling where we learn to dwell within one another.
I'm thinking of Jesus now and the words we hear him say in John 10:10; "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
And I'm thinking how much your life enriches my own life; how we enrich one another in our lives that arise within and out of one another. In a life that God has given to us each and that arise out of the mystery we find within creation.
I just want us to realize this fully, to appreciate it fully, and know fully that we are all a part of that gift too, and to be grateful for the sacramental moments we share together, where we come to know and be fully known by God, where we come to be blest.
The Buddha would certainly agree with all this, in a sheer Buddhist enlightenment and wakefulness practicing sort of way. Practicing this way, this journey, this celebration of life.
Ron Starbuck © 2014
Ron Starbuck is an author, poet, the Publisher-CEO of Saint Julian Press, and an Episcopalian.