Ever heard an ‘angel choir’? Thousands of voices, together raising a loud celestial hymn?
I’m beginning to understand this is precisely what I experienced on Sunday afternoon. But it took until today, as we mark the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, for the phenomenon to sink in entirely.
It’s not just me who heard the joyful sound that day. There were close to 3,000 people crammed into Powell Symphony Hall for ‘Coming Home’, the final concert celebration performed by The St. Louis Jesuits.
We pretty much all had smiles on our faces – all 3,000 of us. But early on, I noticed that I also had tears in my eyes. Indeed, the ‘gift of tears’ kept flowing throughout the 3+ hour performance.
I don’t know that I understand why tears came, but I do know that I had to mention ‘em to my Sweetie. (Sure thing: She was at my side on Sunday, just as she had been some 45 years ago…when we first sang many of those songs during weekly Masses at College Church. And she and I were both delighted to discover that ‘our song’ – Dan Schutte’s ‘Sing A New Song’ – was on the set list for this concert, just as it had been on our wedding day a little over 40 years ago.)
So you could say Gerri and I have some history with these tunes…and gratitude for that history certainly played a part in causing unexpected emotions to well up inside me. But I sensed, too, that my reaction went beyond garden-variety gratitude or nostalgia.
For one thing, I kept seeing many other familiar faces in the crowd – folks who have deeply blessed my journey through the years: Friends from the parish. Former teammates from ACTS retreats. Cherished spiritual directors. A long-lost golf mate or two. Not to mention, all four of my blood-brothers and our Mom.
I wasn’t surprised by the impromptu reunions – more like overwhelmed: My favorite people were there, in abundance. And all the holy ones I saw…helped call-to-mind the holy ones who were with me only in spirit. They were all there – even my Grandpa Ambrose, whose favorite hymn (‘Holy God, We Praise Thy Name’) served as an encore for the show.
The ‘Coming Home’ concert, in short, seemed to transcend the moment. Its two dozen songs transported me to a place beyond. Which I guess, in some sense, makes them the work of angels.
Funny thing about angels: You read a lot about them in Scripture, but you often find that the people telling the stories…tend to have trouble explaining precisely what their encounters entailed. St. Peter, for instance, says he once met an angel in prison. ‘[Peter] followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real…’
In much the same way, I felt led by the five singer-songwriters we heard on Sunday afternoon.
Their familiar lyrics and melodies drew me in…and peeled back the veil on a full measure of ineluctable Mystery…just as they’ve been doing for more than 40 years.
So there’s a good reason for my tears, I’ve decided. They were tears of joy, welling up from a heart that had received much more than it bargained for.
Yes, I went to a concert Sunday afternoon…and received a scrumptious taste of heaven instead.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.