Come dance in the fields

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”                                                                  -Isaiah 40:30-31

Marcy and I recently took a vacation to Grand Rapids, MI to celebrate our 10th anniversary.  While there, we visited several breweries, a garden-sculpture exhibit, and generally made a tour of the area while enjoying each other’s company.  We also attended Mass at a local parish on Saturday evening.

I have said elsewhere that I am seldom taken in by an especially earnest song or homily; it is more the Creed, or the readings, or even some of the responses, which grab at my heart.  And here it was especially true because – if I may be forgiven for saying so – the music was awful.

This effect was certainly magnified by high expectations.  As we entered, the choir was warming up, and they sounded promising.  Very promising.

They were almost harmonizing on some breathy hymn, something like a chant on one of the stalwart songs of our faith.  But as the opening song broke, I realized we were in for an uncomfortable rendering of 1970’s music by way of clumsy orchestration.*

All the better to make my point.

In the front row – two near us, and one across the sanctuary from us** – were three women in wheelchairs.  The opening song, Marty Haugen’s “Canticle of the Sun,” broke in like a drunken roommate.  The procession began, and I wondered (uncharitably) how I was going to endure this.

I looked up, and I noticed each of those women singing.  Then the lyric, “…come dance in the forest, come play in the fields!  And sing, sing of the glory of the Lord!”

And I thought of the passage above, and the promises of God, and the thought of each of these women, born into eternity, rising up out of their wheelchairs and overcoming their afflictions, running faster than I could ever manage on Earth…

Well, it was lights out for me.

It’s not the song – see, the direct emotional appeal of the song was utterly rejected.  But there was enough truth in it to point to greater things, and those things…you almost have to sit down to hear them.

Or else, fall to your knees.

*I’m not, but lest you think I’m over-critical of the era, enjoy this perspective.

**The church is laid out in a cross, so that two sections of seating are facing each other and just in front of the altar.