|That's me on the right with the pained expression.|
I love singing in a good choir. To me it's like a taste of heaven. It has been at least 13 1/2 years, and probably more since I've been in a choir with lots of people who can read music better than I can, and lots of complicated harmonies to learn, so I thought this would be the perfect time to join a choir a month before we were scheduled to sing at an ordination and a first Mass--and a week of that month I was out of town.
I knew it would take some time to get back into the swing of things--not that we swing too much--but it has been even harder than I thought. So, I had been so focused on hitting the right notes, and figuring out which stave I was supposed to be singing from, and not pronouncing my r's, that on Saturday, the day of the ordination, I wasn't even thinking about what we were singing. I wasn't thinking about the significance of the ceremony. I had no integrated notion of the meaning of the lyrics; it was just a string of words and notes that went together. This was the case throughout the first part of the Mass.
And then I looked down at the altar and the Bishop was laying hands on the two ordinands, and it finally hit me what was going on. Those young men down there were changing. I can't imagine what they were feeling. A minute before they had been deacons, yes, but they didn't have any real power. Now they could with certainty call down God from heaven and feed Him to people--to me. No king or politcal leader has ever had power like this (unless he was also a priest). And no matter what they do for the rest of their lives, they will never lose this power.
After the Bishop laid his hands on the men, we sang while all their brother priests laid hands on them. We sang, "You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek," and I knew what those words meant. Forever. Not, "Till death do us part," but forever.
Later in the ceremony, the new priests lay hands on the Bishop and bless him. What must that be like for them and for him? And then, they bless all their fellow priests. I don't remember what we were singing at that point, but I know that it's hard to sing and weep at the same time.