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Swan Song?


“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”                                                                                                                    [Matthew 26:30]


Swans are in abundant supply in the wilds of Minnesota. Old timers there recollect rarely seeing swans ever, if at all. Some are wondering if this proliferation will lead to a hunting season for swans. Truly a magnificent bird, you can see why the Greeks attributed their service to Apollo. A swan on the lake is a vision of peace, if left unmolested. The swimming motion of a swan, as with geese and pelicans, is effortless. There are times their passage across a stretch of “glass” water is such they leave no wake. 

Legend has it that, though swans are hardly a song bird, they “sing” as they die. Whether this is a fact or not is argued way back into its origins, over 2000 years ago. Though opinions have faded, the term now is attached to events marking “the end”.

A swan song is not just an aria Beverly Sills sings as the last song of her operatic career. Businesses, professionals, traditions and trends can all have their respective “swan song”. The swan song term does not necessarily refer to the end of things without a speech. Like General Douglas MacArthur, there is a “fading away” instead of an abrupt end. The lingering of what once was hangs like fog in a misty morning. When the sun gains strength, the haze begins to slip away, and it’s gone without notice.

Other swan song events are remarked as such in the media outlets. Derek Jeter got a walk-off hit his final at bat of his storied career with the Yankees. The final season for Peyton Manning was closed with a Super Bowl victory with Denver. Kobe Bryant scored 60 points the last game he played for the NBA.

There isn’t much in the scriptures that speak of Jesus and his disciples singing. We’ve no lyrics or melody passed our way where we can say “Jesus sang this song”. That could prove very interesting, but obviously God didn’t want it as part of the Bible. However, this passage from Matthew clearly indicates Jesus and the eleven sang a hymn. Remember, only Jesus knew this would be the last time they would share a song. The disciples may well have expected they would go to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was the only one that knew what would happen that night.

That particular anthem is lost to us, but our hymns ever since then sound the more vibrantly. The band of Jesus’ followers went up to Gethsemane together… and came apart up there. Jesus was taken by the Romans, having been betrayed by Judas. From that point until his cries from the cross, Jesus had no friends. His swan song had lyrics that we hold dear, though the melody would be unbearable even yet. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Sweet music, that, for we vain human souls who keep poor memory of our infidelities. Much as we sinners hold wisdom as better in our grasp, we still “know not what we do”. Praise be to God for His forgiveness, the most healing music that rescues our souls!