How many times have I uttered those words, sung those jubilant words at Mass, and paid scant heed to their meaning? I’m a poor singer, so mostly I just fake them, scarcely letting a sound escape from a tight mouth and heart. I’ve probably concentrated more on the hairdo of the woman in front of me, or the restless child with a beat-up doll beside her.
But very recently one morning, even as I went through the motions, the words really struck home—like a bolt out of the blue. It was strange that just at the instant when the congregation chanted “Holy, holy, holy,” my gaze wandered upward to a small open sanctuary window. There a plain brown bird paused briefly on the sun-washed sill. Then it bobbed its head and flew off. Nothing spectacular—except that I was struck right there with a manifestation of the Lord’s glory.
My eyes were cleared, and I opened my mouth to join in the singing. Never mind the poverty of my voice. It was all God had given me, and for the first time I let it blast out in praise of his limitless bounty. Beauty was all around me—in the wide blue eyes of the cherub-face in the pew ahead, turned questioningly at me. It was in the glint of sunlight on the blonde head of the woman holding the child’s hand, who smiled and sang on, encouraging her charge to join her—us—in the proclamation of our faith. I felt refreshed, strengthened inside and happy to be part of it.
Nor did the realization leave me when I went outside again. I pray it never will, once I’ve had that tiny glimpse of heaven in the fleet sparrow with a wisp of building material in its beak, still able to chirp recognition of God’s watchfulness. I bounced to my car and drove home, with that psalm ringing in my ears: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of your glory.” I noted trees re-leaved in annual finery—uncurling maples, blossoming dogwoods, dripping cherries, salmon quinces—and the pulsing tones of evergreen tips bursting with new life. I saw the ground rejuvenating with splashes of color declaring the season—violets tumbling down banks, crocuses like rainbow-hued lollipops, daffodils swelling with joy—and countless other pledges of resurrection.
The sun blazed, and the morning chill fled from air fragrant with spring blossoms. Birds perched atop old tombstones in the cemetery I passed. Grackles and bluejays, preening and denying death as they flashed about, singing their own unlovely—turned lovely—songs of praise to their creator. And overhead that benevolent sun—never as bright as the face of God, but sufficient, blessedly sufficient unto my day. And “Who am I that he should be concerned with me?” I thought. At night the sky would be star-studded, moon-brightened, speckling the limitless space like chips of mica flaking off from infinity.
I pressed a button as I turned into my own driveway, and another, man-made miracle unfolded as the garage door rolled up and offered a passage through. There waited my familiar tabbies, Victoria and Bruno, eager to welcome me home. They curled against my legs, mewing and purring greetings. I stroked their soft fur and responded to such attention with renewed appreciation. Another sign of God’s glory, my faithful companions who have adopted me.
A pale cabbage butterfly fluttered just outside the door. I paused a moment to watch it hover and dip over the morning’s humble offering of gold dandelions on the lawn. Such simple beauty, such grace, I acknowledged as I entered my kitchen. Heaven and earth—wherever my sharpened consciousness bade me look—full of his glory. Even the weary houseplants in the narrow window seemed to leap in recognition of ancient sunlight. A pair of adult crows were on the backyard tray, teaching their youngsters to forage. Their solicitude struck me as just one more sight-and-sound exhibition of the fullness of God’s glory, though their voices were harsh.
Even as mine, I realized—somewhat softened, however, by the knowledge of the true meaning of those words of the refrain testifying to heaven and earth being full of God’s eternal glory. Hosanna in the highest, forever.