Editor’s note: This is the third post in our newest series, reflecting on the Hillbilly Thomists’ recent, self-titled album. The series will run each Tuesday and Thursday throughout the Easter season. Read the whole series here. This post concerns the song “Angel Band,” which you can listen to here.
Organ fanfares, stringed instruments, trumpet solos, magnificent polyphony—Easter music, right? What about a little bit of bluegrass?
O bear my longing heart to Him
Who bled and died for me
Whose blood now cleanses from all sin
And gives me victory.
In “Angel Band,” we have a victory song, a song infused with Easter hope. The light of Easter has changed our vision entirely. No longer do we merely look at the cross as a horrifying execution; rather, we see Jesus and his bloodied cross raised in victory over death. With this in mind, we listen again to the first verse:
My latest sun is sinking fast
My race is nearly run
My strongest trials now are past
My triumph is begun.
In Jesus, life has definitively triumphed over death, yet we still must run the race so that this may be fulfilled in us. The race is not easy, as the cross bears witness. There is suffering to offer to the Lord, there is sin to cast off, there is death at the end of our life. But, St. Paul exhorts us, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2). Jesus endured everything, St. Paul tells us, because he knew what joy there is in sharing life with God and because he wanted to make that life possible for us. We can share in that heavenly life even now because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Heb 5:5). With God’s love in our hearts, we break out into song as we begin to live that wonderful life that Jesus gained for us and as we look forward to its fullness in heaven:
I’ve almost gained my heav’nly home
My spirit loudly sings
The holy ones, behold, they come
I hear the noise of wings.
This is living in the hope of Easter. This song, as if sung on the deathbed after a long but fruitful race, is a song of joyful expectation of heaven and trust in God’s mercy. Having endured suffering while hoping for heaven, we await God’s angel band, that is, the heralds of his mercy, to guide us through death to eternal life, where we will sing God’s praise forever with them. As another songwriter wrote,
For he will give his angels charge of you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. (Ps 91:11-13)
By God’s grace, even if it takes a lifetime of struggle, we will trample the serpent of sin in our hearts. And thus prepared, we will be borne up, perfected by his grace, to our immortal home.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)