The young people sitting around were very quiet. The reflection period was going according to plan with a CD of the Irish singer Enya softly playing in the background. Afterwards, a student asked me what I thought of the words, which she found very meaningful. I had to confess that, while I found the music very conducive to meditation, I really had not been listening to the words. With a look of surprise, she read the words on which she and others she had been reflecting.
“My life goes on in endless song
above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real, though far off hymn
that hails a new creation.
How can I keep from singing”?
A lively discussion followed as to the times in life when there are new creations, a birth of a child, a new friendship, and a pledged love relationship. All great experiences, it was suggested, like graduation, success in our various endeavors, impel us to break into joyful song. When faced with a continual diet of dismal news from the daily media, ‘earth’s lamentations’, we have a need to celebrate the wonderful moments. Especially those which bring ‘a new creation’.
My mind jumped across the centuries to another young woman visiting her cousin. Mary, the maid of Nazareth, graced above all women, and so recently touched by the Divine, and carrying already a new creation, could not keep from singing. She burst out into her famous song; –
“My soul glorifies the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.”
She also recalls a ‘real far off hymn that hails a new creation’; “He remembers His mercy, the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons forever.” That promised mercy would involve, raising the lowly, and filling the starving with good things. No wonder, therefore, she could not keep from singing, and rightly foretold that all generations would call her blessed. When we contemplate her role in God’s plan of salvation, we also cannot help joining in her song and singing her praises.
Then another great joyful time came to my mind. After forty days of Lenten observance, we have the Easter Vigil. The new fire has been lit and blessed. The Light of Christ is triumphantly proclaimed three times as the Easter candle is carried into our darkened churches. The liturgy breaks out into a great joyous proclamation; “Rejoice Heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels” –reminiscent echoes of Bethlehem – “Exult all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our king is risen. Sound the trumpet of salvation. Rejoice O Mother church! The risen Savior shines upon you!”
The readings detail the long history of salvation, in which many generations of the Chosen People of the Old Testament, eagerly looked for the One Who was to come, Who would deliver them. This was “the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons forever,” in which Mary of Nazareth rejoiced and in which we once again ‘hear the real far off hymn that hails a new creation.’
The wonders of this night are then rejoiced over: “the power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes away guilt, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride.” Christian communities certainly cannot keep from singing: the liturgy exclaims “Therefore heavenly Father, in the joy of this night, receive our evening sacrifice of praise, your church’s solemn offering.”
“Easter, like all deep things, begins in mystery and ends like all high things, in great courage.” (B.Perry). Afterwards, as the great celebration of the Paschal mystery recedes in time, let us not soften our singing. Let it be like some powerful dye in a river that colors all its waters.
So, let our joyful Easter singing, our alleluias, flow on and color the coming days, weeks and months.
Fr Frank Freeman SDB is the editor of the Australian Salesian Bulletin, published by the Australia-Pacific Province of the Salesians of Don Bosco.