Sunday, June 12, 2022

A song for the Church

My small toddler scooched into my arms as we rose for the entrance hymn at Mass--the liturgy for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. Organ music filled the church, and we sang: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning, my song shall rise to thee..."

My daughter, in what a speech-language pathologist friend tells me is a form of "fast mapping," slowly annunciated a new-to-her word, cementing it in her mind: "HOLY!" The congregation sang the verses of this classic hymn, and my daughter continued to sing this one word, over and over again, as she intently looked at the paper "worship aid" booklet in her hands. "Holy, holy, holy!" 

The hymn ended, the opening prayers began, and my daughter continued to focus on her new word--occasionally punctuating the air around us with a song of "Holy! Holy!" 

I glanced down at her, a sense of gratitude welling up within me. Here, from my small child, was the reminder that I need over and over again in our fallen world. Here, in this consecrated building, in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, in the Liturgy, she joyfully sang "holy, holy, holy."

So often, we can find ourselves singing a different refrain when we walk out the doors of the church.

Corruption, corruption, corruption, we chant inwardly as we see more and more reports of abuse—of all kinds—rise up regarding priests, seminaries, and bishops. We groan and despair as we see scandals and begin to question where God is present in all of this--and perhaps wonder if God has abandoned us altogether.  

Broken, broken, broken, we sigh, as we see just how devastated so many people in the Church are as they come from broken families, broken marriages, and difficult circumstances.

We need to remember that nothing good comes from concocting cover-ups and pretending that corruption and brokenness do not exist. I am grateful for increased transparency as we seek healing in our Church and in the world. It's hugely problematic when people act as if church leaders are immune from sin, bad decisions, and even small mistakes and poor judgement. We are all human beings, we all deal with concupiscence and temptations, and we all are in need of God's mercy and continual help. Furthermore, we need to address problems and stop the various forms of abuse that people inflict on other people.

Yet, we cannot become so stuck in the brokenness and sin of the Church’s members that we forget our key identity as the Mystical Body of Christ. We cannot become so focused on the darkness that we cease to recognize the light.

Christ laid down his life for the Church and is wedded to her; forming a nuptial bond that cannot be broken even by the presence of scandals, gossip, manipulation, and abuse.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesian 5:25-27)

When discussing the nuptial union between man and woman, the two becoming one flesh, St. Paul notes that “This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32) (bolded emphasis mine)

To be united to God so intimately, so deeply, is indeed a great mystery—and one that should fill us with awe. Perhaps, as we address the shortcomings of sinful human beings (beginning with ourselves) we can each recall just how beautiful, how awe-inspiring, this bond with God is. And let us sing with the angels, as we do at every Mass: “Holy, holy, holy!” (cf. Is 6:3, Rev 4:8)


“For as a young man marries a virgin, 
your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” (Is 62:5)

Holy, holy, holy, indeed. 

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, so much richness to reflect on here!

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    1. Thank you so much, Elisabeth! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it!

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