“May the choirs of Angels come to greet you, may they speed you to paradise. May the Lord enfold you in His mercy. May you find eternal life.” Song of Farewell by Ernest Sands
More times than I can count, I have sung these words at funerals. I’ve sung them for the very old and the very young and every age and stage in between. For people I have loved dearly, for those I’ve known well and those I didn’t know at all. And I’ve always appreciated the visual that the song conveys, that of a person being escorted by a troupe of angels up into the heavens to be enfolded in Mercy itself. But it wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that I realized what the song and the image mean to me, personally.
My Talent, My Ministry
One of the greatest gifts God has given to me is that of music. More specifically, He gave me the gift of singing. I don’t say that to sound boastful or prideful. To me, saying that I can sing is like saying I have blue eyes or that I have scoliosis. It’s just how I was made. In fact, it is such an integral part of who I am that I truly feel it is sacred. And as such, it is my honor and privilege to use the voice God gave me both at His service and the service of others.
So, I sing in the parish choir and act as cantor at Mass (and have for years and years). I sing at weddings, whenever they come along, and I sing at funerals. This is my talent and it is my way of ministering to God’s people. Think of it as the light under the bushel basket (Matthew 5:15-16) or the talents given by the master to his servants (Matthew 25:14-30). If I don’t use this gift, am I not turning my back on God? Shouldn’t I share what I have been given in love and thanksgiving?
And so, whether in times of joy or sorrow, in times of celebration or peace, I sing. And each and every time I sing in church, you can be sure that I pray these words…
Holy Spirit, sing through me today to touch the hearts of the people in this place. Let them hear your love through me. Amen.
At every Catholic funeral, right before the body is removed from the church, the priest gives a final commendation to the deceased. The body is blessed with incense holy water and the priest says something along these lines…
“Before we go our separate ways, let us take leave of our brother/sister. May our farewell express our affection for him/her; may it ease our sadness and strengthen our hope. One day we shall joyfully greet him/her again when the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys even death itself.”
Now, this is when a song of farewell (like the one I mentioned above) can be sung. The Mass has ended, the eulogies have been shared, and it’s time to take the body to its final resting place, the soul having already been entrusted to the Lord.
“May the choirs of angels come to greet you. May they speed you to paradise.”
Like I said, I’ve sung this song dozens and dozens of times over the years. But this past Tuesday, while singing for a 51 year-old woman who had been a wife, a mother, and the beloved sister-in-law of a dear friend of mine, I had a revelation.
Well, I say revelation. Maybe it was a whisper. Or a feeling.
This means you. You are their choir of angels.
I can’t say that I literally heard it. But it was as clear a thought as I’d ever had.
This means you. You are their choir of angels.
And I knew what it meant!
We believe that, when a person has died, they are escorted by the choirs of angels to meet Jesus. My earthly ears can’t even begin to fathom what that must sound like. What absolute glory!
But to the people on earth, those who are left behind and grieving, I get to serve as that choir for them. In as simple and humble a way as my human body is able, if I am truly singing prayerfully, then what the people in the congregation hear isn’t necessarily me, but me bridging the divide, if you will, between what they are experiencing in the church and what their loved one is experiencing in heaven. That maybe I can symbolize the choir of angels for them to bring them comfort.
Let me tell you, it rocked me to my core. And it’s been on my mind ever since.
A Promise Going Forward
If ever I wasn’t convicted that singing is a ministry, I am now. If ever I trudged my way carelessly through a funeral, it won’t happen again. Every time I am asked to share my talent at one of life’s most sacred moments, it is a gift and an opportunity for grace. I promise to always and forever view it as such.
All credit to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Featured image credit: Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash
8 thoughts on “May the Choirs of Angels Come to Greet You”
Speechless. You are the This is Us of blogs.
Oh, gracious!! 🙂
You put into words exactly how I feel leading music at masses, weddings, and funerals! Thank you for writing your feelings down to share!
I’m glad you could relate. ❤️
These are beautiful words. Since moving here, I have been missing the beautiful singing at the church I attended for years. This is the second nudge I have had today about the music at St Joseph’s church. I will be there this weekend.
Music is an integrel part of the Mass and I have been missing the beautiful music at the church I attended for years before moving here. This is the second “touch” I have had today about attending St Joseph. I will be there this weekend. Hope to hear your voice praising God.
Beautifully written Beth! How fortunate you are to see your gift so clearly. Some of us keep searching. Keep shining your light.