Here’s a confession: sometimes during Mass, I zone out. It’s nothing personal, and it’s not a reflection of how interesting or relevant the service is – it’s probably a reflection of how fatigued or scattered I am, to be honest.
I zoned out during the homily on Sunday (sorry, Father) and, sitting there in the choir stalls, roasting inside voluminous layers of choir robes and struggling to push through sleeping-tablet hangover (exactly like a regular hangover without the dehydration or the fun of getting there), I found myself watching my fellow choristers in various stages of reflection, introversion or boredom respectively. This tenor, listening with her chin cupped in both hands. This soprano, studying her fingernails with minute attention, another staring into space only to catch me eye and mouth “I love you”. This bass surreptitiously rubbing at a mark on his shiny shoe; another stretching his feet out into relaxation before the musical demands of the sung Eucharist we were yet to come to. The soprano at my side, lost in her own thoughts, beautiful and still and calm. And those I couldn’t see: the altos behind me, the choristers outside – multi-talented – teaching Sunday school. The friend who usually sits beside me, off at work; our choirmaster, hidden from sight up in the organ loft.
Looking around at these people who have, without my meaning it, become a family to me, naming to myself those who weren’t there and sending a wordless but fervent prayer of thanks, I felt my heart, my soul – where I feel things, that vulnerable point of tenderness protected by my sternum – swell with love. These people, imperfect and beautiful, brought together to form this community-within-a-community only because we can all sing. And yet united to so much more than just music and song. United by a shared faith, a shared role in bringing sounds of glory and reflection and praise into being. And yet made into a community, a family, by so much more than just a common purpose and shared experience: bound by love, by friendship that stands strong through light and darkness, through storms and smooth sailing. A friendship that allows us to be light and strength to each other, to care and accept care. To be the hands and the eyes and the heart and the love of God for each other. To be the Source of compassion for each other.
Sitting there, watching these people for whom I would walk through fire without a heartbeat’s hesitation, my heart swelled with love and gratitude. Sometimes, despite how difficult everything can be, especially when I’m singing – sometimes, the blessings in my life shine like glory.