Recently, and just for something different, I was singing with the choir in the Cathedral. We were singing a hymn, the lyrics of which urged Christians to take their/our minds off earthly realities and place them on the realities of heaven.
Often my mind wanders during the hymns. They’re not difficult to sing and sometimes I zone out, or get distracted. I shouldn’t – a hymn is just as important as an anthem and I really should concentrate fully on the sound I’m making – but I do. On this occasion I was distracted by looking across the choir at a friend, and realising just how tired she looked. During the prayers afterwards, I found myself caught up in thoughts of all those people I love and for whom I worry: friends who maybe aren’t doing so well, or are doing too much and are tired, or who are unwell, or for whom life is just a little bit too hard. And so the prayers, and the beauty of the liturgy, passed me by.
I felt a bit guilty when I realised what I’d done. Here I was, meant to be part of the group leading the music and the worship in this beautiful sacred place, being distracted by day-to-day realities when the hymn I’d just sung, moving the service towards the celebration of the Eucharist, was all about putting aside these earthly matters to better focus on the love of God.
Then I realised: in focusing on earthly matters, I was in fact focusing on God. Not only in the fact that the Creator of the universe is deeply, keenly and completely present in Its own creation; but in the fact that the earthly realities by which I was distracted are heavenly realities as well: the love of God that we share in the love of each other. My love and care for my friends, and their love and care for me, and the grace that we give and receive in that, are profoundly of God. The Source of life, the Ground of being, the Origin of love, is as much present in the love between Its creatures as it is in the mundane miracle of the Eucharist. Without meaning to, in my distraction, I had turned my mind to the heavenly realities of the hymn.
I should still probably pay more attention to my singing though.