In the beginning there was song. It was a song that had never begun but wound through the ages ever new, ever old, ever glory, ever wonder. It was full of polyphony and harmony, a continuous blend of perfect rhythms and syncopations, musical themes, jokes, and resolutions, with a central refrain, a chorus of one voice in three harmonics, or perhaps it was three voices in one chord. But the angels who normally sang along, even paused in wonder whenever that part came up and broke out in applause at the coda – before the plunge into the next verse.
It was at one such refrain that the angels were delighted to watch the music suddenly appear before them, first a deep black and then light driving back against the darkness. The song went up, up and on, and the music became Day and Night, and then an expanse with waters below and beneath – the first water music. Then dry ground and vines and grains and planets shot out of the darkness singing high and long and glad. And the angels could not help but erupt with shouts at the jewel crusted canopy that appeared over the world.
And what the angels noticed was that not only was the same song continuing ever new, ever old, ever glory, ever wonder, but the music that appeared before them in the shapes of earth and water and heavens also had their own voices and harmonized with the song. They weren’t the central voice, but they were given their own lines, their own parts in the song. Then came enormous sea monsters and billions of glow in the dark plankton and seagulls and eagles and vultures and bison and puppy dogs and cheetahs. And they were given voices too. It was marvelous, and the angels shouted again. And they stood up and stomped their feet and clapped their hands in the stands, keeping time like throbbing djembe and cymbals.
But then, just when they couldn’t imagine the song being any more beautiful, the tone changed dramatically and soared into a new key that made you want to cry for joy, and I think many of the angels did when they saw the man and the woman who appeared next. And when they opened their mouths, the song was all glory. They were part of the song, and so they were sung. And yet their voices were almost exact echoes of the first Voice. And they laughed and tasted the song in the air. They inhaled the strawberry notes and watched them dance in the Northern Lights at night. They felt the song in their bones and in one another as they held each other close. The glory was so overwhelming that many of the angels bowed their heads and lifted their hands. There was nothing so much like the Central Chorus as this and all wonderful, an anthem so sweet and so terrible and so happy.
No one remembers how long they sang, but their voices suddenly faltered. The song continued loud and strong as ever, but their parts went flat, off key, monotone, and as if they knew, they immediately tried to stop singing, tried to muffle the sounds coming from their glorious bodies. They hid, ashamed. The Main Voice lifted in a mournful verse, and the man and woman walked away in silence. It was like they couldn’t hear the song any more. It was all around them, but they couldn’t taste it any more. It wasn’t as bright in the night sky as before. They sang small snatches, they tried to write their own music, but it was always their own song and it was always terrible. They wrote a song of two sons, and the older one silenced the younger one, spilling his blood on the ground. And so it went, song after song, generation after generation, nothing but occasional piercing notes and then silence, centuries of silence. Music without a voice, instruments without a sound.
But the Original Harmony, the Central Song never faltered and it swelled again and again with a theme, and as the angels watched and listened, they realized it was getting louder and somehow getting nearer. Occasionally a man or a woman would hear a bit of the music and would stand up and hum a little and this would make everyone angry. They would plug their ears and scream and make them stop humming. But the Song drew near and began playing in a tent and later in a building covered in gold. One man once a year would go into the Song. He would sprinkle some of the blood of their silence, and the Song would swell and the angels would hear the notes of love and mercy, but they could tell that even that man could barely make out the tune.
Occasionally the angels had solo parts. They would sing right up close to the men and women and try to teach them their notes. Usually it was like trying to teach a baby to talk, but the angels always sang their hearts out. Even though the silence still seemed so deafening, they could tell by the way the music was growing louder and nearer, something was going to happen, something was going to change, and so they sang and sang and played their parts for all their worth.
And then one day, one of the angels was sent to sing to an old man named Zacharias who had spent his life trying to learn a few notes to the Chorus. Outside a crowd of faithful gathered mumbling their monotone prayers. The angel’s name was Gabriel and the line that he sang was pretty astonishing – like a line jazz horns improvising melodically, and even Zacharias could not bring himself to sing those notes. How could his wife bear a child in her old age? And so he was sent out to the crowd even more silent than when he went in. A man who was supposed to teach the people to sing was now mute, completely unable to speak.
But the song was definitely reaching some kind of climax now because just a few measures later the same angel appeared to a young girl named Mary and sang a theme of such astonishing beauty that most of the angels could hardly believe their ears. And she wasn’t even in the temple, she wasn’t even used to hearing the song. And something completely new happened: not only was she being sung, and not only was she beginning to sing herself, but now the Original Chorus, the Central Refrain of the Whole Symphony was coming from within her. She had her own voice, but now somehow the Original Voice was beginning as human voice inside her. It was like that first morning when the first man and woman appeared, it was their anthem, it was that key that made you want to cry.
But then Mary went to see Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth, who also had a song welling up within her, and the moment Mary greeted Elizabeth, her song leaped for joy. Many of the angels scratched their heads in wonder because he was such a little song, and yet he could already feel the rhythm, he could already hear the beat. And then like the sun bursting out of dark storm clouds, Mary’s voice came rushing up and filling the heavens. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has found joy in God my Savior!”
One moment there was silence, the shuffle of steps, cautious breathing, the clink of dishes on a table and the next, a haunting, piercing triumph song only rarely heard on that silent planet. It was lovely like harmonics, a pitch perfect line swelling up to meet the Song that made her and all things, the Song that was even now welling up within her.
But that was just the beginning. A little while later, Elizabeth’s song was born, and they named him John, and at that moment Zacharias received his voice back, and he belted out a chorus that made the angels dance. And then Mary’s Song was born, and three legions of angels came down and sung a rousing canon to a field of sheep and their shepherds until they went to find Him. They went to find Mary’s Song, and He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and singing in a manger. Mary’s Song was full of sound. And when He sang, people couldn’t help but sing back. He called the notes right out of their silent hearts. And they smiled and laughed and danced with him. He turned the water of their silence into the wine of raucous praise.
The song grew louder and the people stamped their feet and clapped their hands, but many also hated the Song. It was just a terrible screeching in their ears. And so they conspired to silence Him. And if they had known how music works, if they had known that He was the Song of the Universe, the Song that sung them into being, they would not have crucified our Song of Glory. But they struck Him and mocked Him and hung Him on a tree, and there was a rest, a beat, a pause, and a shadow fell across the earth, darkness like at the beginning.
But if you had seen the look on the angels’ faces, you would have been astonished. Their faces were covered in smirks, covered in grins, and their voices were in crescendo. Because even though Mary was swallowing back tears, even though her voice was hoarse with pain, her song was not finished. Her Song only finished the silence; it silenced the silence. And on the first day of the week, while it was still very dark, an angel sang a trumpet blast that rolled away the stone from His tomb, and Mary’s Song burst forth again, alive and well, a rich, fevered torrent of unstoppable sound:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden; For behold from this time forth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His name. And His mercy is upon them that fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm. He has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low estate. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy; as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed forever.”
Mary’s Song is a man who was born from the silence of a virgin’s womb. Mary’s Song is a man who was born again from the silence of the grave. Mary’s Song is a triumph song, an anthem of victory, a psalm of praise, and a declaration of war. It’s the song of a teenage girl who heard the song of the angel and said, Let it be according to your word. It’s the song of Light that splits the darkness. It’s the song of the stars that stills the seas. It’s the song of the End bursting into the Middle. It’s the song of resurrection, the song of forgiveness, the song of grace.
And because it’s this Song, the Song that has never begun but has wound through the ages ever new, ever old, ever glory, ever wonder, it’s the Song we were made to sing. It’s the music we were made for. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” And we know Mary is still singing because we are singing now. And we can’t stop singing. We are singing praises to Her Lord, praises to Her Savior because her Song has silenced our silence, and now we shout and sing and stamp our feet and clap our hands with the whole host of heaven and all the church on earth forever and ever, Amen.