Af the Seraph Earns New Wings
May 6, 2011
(Originally published at joyfulonline.net.)
The seraph Af disrupted the order of Heaven on the day he stopped singing. One moment he was standing in his place around the throne as he had since the beginning, his voice blending into the jubilant heavenly choir, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven; all the earth is filled with His glory.” The next moment, a profound dissatisfaction descended on him. He opened his mouth to sing, but nothing came out.
Beside him, Israfil lowered one of his six wings and stared. “Holy, holy, holy,” the Burning One prompted. He raised a fiery eyebrow at his fellow seraph. “Holy is the Lord of Heaven.”
Af sighed. All of his wings rose and fell in a silent shrug.
Israfil reached over and tapped Hasmal. Startled, Hasmal followed Israfil’s gaze, looking around at Af. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven,” Hasmal sang. He met Israfil’s bewildered gaze and shook his head. “All the earth is filled with His glory.”
Concern over Af’s silence worked its way through the host of seraphim flanking the throne of God. One after another, each seraph tapped his neighbor and jerked his head toward Af. One after another, startled gazes of fire were exchanged until, like a child’s game of Operator, the seraph next to Metatron tapped that magnificent angel, second only to God Himself.
Metatron was so surprised that he stumbled over his words. “Ho-ho-er- holy,” Metatron sang. He eased out of formation and stood behind Af. He poked the lesser seraph with a sharp pinion. “All the earth is filled with His glory,” he urged.
Af flinched and lifted a wing to block Metatron’s face.
The chief seraph was stunned and for the first time since the Lord created all, Metatron’s voice fell silent. Without their leader to guide them, the other seraphim began to stumble over their words and the most holy liturgy, that which had been sung without cessation since the creation of light, began to falter. “Holy, holy – His glory – earth – la la la la…” Overhead, an infectious giggle rippled through the cherubim.
Gazardiel looked at Seraphiel, Cahethal flapped one pair of his wings at Kemuel; the liturgy broke down entirely as the choir of seraphim erupted into disordered shrieks. Random bursts of song swelled. “Holy, holy! All the earth! La la la la! The Lord of Heaven!”
The door to the heavenly vault flew open and God strode in, His hands clapped over His ears. “What’s going on here?” He shouted above the cacophony.
The seraphim stopped singing en masse. Not a sound was heard except the tittering of a cherub who couldn’t control his amusement.
God walked over to Metatron. “Is there a problem here?”
“Mo-o-o-s-t h-o-o-o-l – l – y Lord,” the chief seraph chanted.
The Creator winced and held up his hand. “Stop. Stop singing. Just tell me what the problem is.”
Discomfited, Metatron cleared his throat. “Most Holy Lord, I – “ He broke off and looked around. “Well, Creator of All – “ He stopped again. “Frankly, Magnificent and Delightful God, I’m not sure what the problem is. This seraph,” He poked Af with a pinion again. “This seraph stopped singing.”
God looked at Af. The seraph had pulled all six of his wings protectively around himself. “Af?” God prodded gently. He put His hand on the seraph and peered at Af’s face. “Do you want to tell Me what’s going on?”
Af shrugged and mumbled incoherently into his flaming feathers.
“What was that?” God asked, bending nearer.
The seraph ventured a timid glance and answered, “I don’t feel like singing.”
A gasp echoed through the seraphim. A cherub murmured overhead, “Uh, oh.”
God nodded thoughtfully and considered Af’s audacious statement. “You know, of course, that singing is what you do. It’s what the seraphim do.”
Af shrugged again. “I suppose so.”
“I hear a ‘but’ in there,” God prompted.
The seraph looked around at his league of fiery cohorts; then, gathering his courage, Af met the Lord’s gaze. “I’m tired of singing. That’s all I’ve ever done. Ever. You gave me three pairs of wings, but I’ve never flown. You gave me feet, but I’ve never stood on the ground. You gave me hands, but I’ve never touched another creature. It all seems like a big waste.”
Another gasp of horror rose up from the other angels. Somewhere in the background, the Archangel Michael snorted, “What a tool.”
God ignored the others. “Would you like to be something else, Af?”
Af nodded. “I’d like to be a bird.”
God held up His hands to quell the excited whispers filling the vault. “That’s quite a demotion, you realize.”
The Creator patted Af’s winged shoulder. “You’ll only have one pair of wings. I can’t let you keep all three pairs; that would cause too much of a stir down there.”
“One pair is fine,” Af assured God. His heart was already soaring.
The Lord nodded and Af was gone.
God paused for a moment on His way to the door and gestured at the remaining angels. “The rest of you, carry on.”
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven; all the earth is filled with His glory!”
Heaven once again filled with the glorious strains of the most holy choir as somewhere far below, a sparrow banked and ebbed above an ancient forest, and sang its new song of praise.