Today we celebrated the Feast of All Saints, thanking God for those who said “yes” to his love – in the past, present, and future, the Communion of Saints, the sanctos, those set apart, those chosen, Christ’s own. The thurifer stepped soberly down the red-carpeted aisle, swinging his thurible full of incense, the clouds rising over our heads sweetly. He prepared the way for the torchbearers with their flaming candles and the crucifer with raised crucifix. Finally, lastly, came the celebrant, our good Father Pomroy, his white and gold chasuble flowing royally.
We sang “For all the saints…” and later “I sing a song to the saints of God . . .” and finally “Ye holy angels bright . . .”, all happy and glorious, a great celebration. The first was a hymn I sang in my high school chorus back in the days when it was permitted to sing Christian songs in a public school. It is a thunderous song, a marching song, a great hymn to victory.
The second hymn tugged at my memory with color and poignancy, for “I sing a song of the saints of God, faithful and brave and true …” was a song we taught to the children in Sunday School, with hand movements and twirling, a true dance-of-a song, but today at least, although it was difficult, I kept my feet planted firmly on the floor.
The third hymn soars with lyrics that wing high, looping around bright stars, riding on angels wings, with the last two verses settling nicely on the theme of All Saints, saying it all:
Ye saints, who toil below,
Adore your heav’nly King
And onward as ye go
Some joyful anthem sing;
Take what he gives
And praise him still,
Through good or ill,
Who ever lives!
And then, refocusing on my own tiny heart:
My soul, bear thou thy part,
Triumph in God above:
And with a well-tuned heart
Sing thou the songs of love!
Let all thy days
Till life shall end,
Whate’er he send
Be filled with praise.
(No. 600, Richard Baxter, 1672, and John Hampden Gurney, 1838)
I like the idea of a “well-tuned” heart. Tuned by coming to Mass and singing praises with my fellow believers, “saints in training.” Tuned by the words of the Gospel, Epistle, prayers, sermon, indeed the liturgy itself. Tuned by the reception of Christ in the Eucharist. Well-tuned, we left St. Peter’s, the anthems filling our ears for hours to come, prepared for the week ahead, for each day given to us.
St. Peter’s Church, 6113 Lawton, Oakland, CA; Sunday Mass, 10 a.m.;http://www.saintpetersoakland.com/