The Divine Trajectory

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John 1:1

Each semester in my Introduction to Literature courses, my opening lecture begins with this verse from John’s prologue in order to convince my students of something they tacitly already know: that words matter. It used to be (when rhetoric was still a course of study) that the state of one’s soul was reflected in the words one used; that, to put it succinctly, eloquence was next to godliness. But no more. Nowadays, if your words run longer than a sound bite, you risk being labeled verbose. Or worse: boring.

When God wanted to connect with his creation most intimately, however, he came to us as Word. Not as picture. Or idea. Or song. Or vision. Not even as one of the elementals: Truth—Goodness—Beauty. Word was, and is, God’s medium of choice. But why?

John’s prologue moves almost imperceptibly from word to life to light (“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people”)—through what I call the divine trajectory. In other words, a discernable direction, imbedded in creation, starts at word and moves towards light. Science calls it the expanding universe: the farther away objects are from us, the faster they move. With sufficient speed, matter becomes light (e=mc2), and the universe moves from mass-filled to light-filled—an elegant scientific equation for a deep theological truth.

Indeed, when God decided to create in the first place, the same elements were present: word, life, and light: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Light!’ And there was light.” And with light came life.

Words, then, shed light, not just figuratively but, apparently, quite literally. And in so doing, they are life-giving; they allow us to see, to hear—in essence, to know. As words resound in the silence, so light shines in the darkness; and the darkness cannot put it out.

God chose to come to us as Word because words bring life. But words also can destroy. Satan distorts. Light bends. But in their undistorted state, words bring unbending light and allow us to communicate, to be intimate with each other and with God, to understand. By using words, we can cast the darkness out of our own lives; indeed, out of life itself.

Words matter because God matters.