Mother Nirmala Narikunnel, OSB
Abbess of Shanti Nilayam (India)

The heavens and the earth proclaim
the glory of God (Psalm 18a)


The heavens proclaim the Glory of God
And the firmament shows forth the work of his hands.
Day unto day takes up the story
And night unto night makes known the message.
No speech, no word no voice is heard
Yet their span extends through all the earth.
Their words to the utmost bounds of the world,
There he has placed a tent for the sun;
It comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his tent,
Rejoices like a champion to run its course.
At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun;
To the furthest end of the sky is its course.
There is nothing concealed from its burning heat.


The psalmist may be likened to a shepherd keeping guard over his flock admiring God’s creation. Even if he had no scientific knowledge and before any technical discovery, he could wonder at the creation, and so sing this beautiful psalm. By his powerful Word God created and organized the whole universe and his plans are irreversible. The glory, the magnificence, the splendour of God is manifested in the psalm. God is the creator of the heavens and of the sun that lights up the world. The heavenly bodies and the regular succession of day and night manifest God’s glory and they transmit their message, silently calling us to praise God. God has wonderfully arranged the universe and everything in it for our benefit. Heaven and earth manifest God’s glory. The perfections of God are proclaimed in eloquent silence by the created world.

The psalmist meditates on the perfect silence of nature. We can enjoy the marvels and wonders of nature only in silence. Like the prophet Elijah we will find the Creator in the gentle wind. Without word of voice the creation tells about the Glory of God. They follow the law of nature perfectly. The sun will not stop rising or setting one day because God the Creator has put order in the creation, and they follow the order perfectly which (unless he wills it) will not change.

St Benedict dedicates a whole chapter in the Rule to silence. It is only in silence that we can find God and in turn our fellow human beings. The mind penetrates the world around us, the more that witness staggers us with his greatness and glory. God’s glory means his manifestation and communication, calling forth a response of praise. In many other psalms the psalmist will invite the whole of creation to celebrate the greatness of the Creator, e.g. Psalm 148.

Night is the absence of sunlight. Night and day sing the glory of God. The day proclaims God’s splendour and night his hiddenness and mystery. Neither day nor night can talk as human beings do, but in spite of this they convey their message as ‘sacraments’ of the power and majesty of God. Their eloquence is a silent eloquence. The praise rendered to God by day and night covers the whole earth. Their praise is heard universally. The sun is the chief and most obvious witness to God’s splendour. It is poetically conceived as hiding in a tent in the eastern skies before it appears at dawn, and is compared to a bridegroom clad in splendid robes and because of the strength of its heat and light to a military champion.

LectioSoleilThe psalmist was very much impressed by the heavens, the uninterrupted sequence of days and nights and the rising and setting of the sun. He composed a poem and sang it in the presence of the worshippers. The world of creation is a mirror reflection of God and anyone who has faith like the psalmist will be able to see the reflections of God in the natural world. The exceeding greatness and power of God shine out in the heavenly sanctuary, in the vast expanse of heaven and on the whole earth.

‘The sun as it appears, making proclamation as it goes forth, is a marvelous instrument, the work of the Most High. At noon it parches the land, and who can withstand its burning heat? A man tending a furnace works in burning heat, but the sun burns the mountains many times as much. It breathes out fiery vapours and with bright beams it blinds the eyes. Great is the Lord who made it and at his command it hastens on its course’ (Sirach 43).

‘Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Brother Sun, who is the day and through whom you give us light; he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor, and bears a likeness of you, Most High’ (St Francis of Assisi).

God created heaven and earth, and the crown of creation is Man. Man is little less than a God (Psalm 8). The psalmist is a common man with vivid imagination, and profound sense of awe proclaims the majesty and power of the Creator. But man has disfigured the beauty of creation by sin, and Christ the sunlight has come to dispel the darkness of this world. The Creator of the immense and marvelous universe is so great and so powerful, yet he cares for human beings. When man misuses or treats creation badly nature reacts. Recently our monastery and the surroundings were flooded, and the reason was that some people had thrown waste into the drainage, which got blocked with incessant rain and damaged most of our cultivation and farm and contaminated drinking water, and we suffered great losses. We could do nothing about it until the water receded slowly, and that took more than a week. When nature reacts we can do nothing except trust in the transcendent God present in creation.

As we pray this psalm we can marvel at the wonder of creation: with what wisdom and love God has planned and organized everything! We thank God, the ruler of the universe, all wise, and all powerful, for creating everything so good and so beautiful. All praise and all glory to God for his infinite wisdom, power, beauty, creativity and love. We praise God on behalf of the whole creation. To praise and glorify the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is the ultimate goal of all creatures and human beings. Lord God, we praise you on behalf of the whole creation. The beauty and goodness of everything you have made, and the perfect system and order in nature manifest your wisdom and love. Whatever you have made is a marvel. Accept the praise and worship we offer you, and grant that all human beings may recognize the goodness and wisdom that are active in creation and give praise to you.