When I married my husband, I married into his family. If that family were a building made of earthly stones, the large rock that for so long stood at the corner of the foundation, the one that bore the most weight, has been taken out of his place. He passed from this life last week at the age of 96. My husband’s father was a Christian man and there was nothing fancy about him; still, many people said rightly that he was “a prince of a man.”
The house is being restructured. We know that God’s everlasting arms are under us in any case, but I feel the shifting, and the huge change. And I could not think of a thing to say here until today when I read these words from a hymn of the Greek Orthodox Rite for the Burial of Priests. This man who was so significant in my life was not a priest, or even Orthodox, but the hymn helps me to pray and to hold the mysteries in faith.
God intended the soul and body to be a unity, but at death they have to be torn apart. The words wonder about that and about other things regarding our death of which we understand so little. I like the musical setting by John Tavener; you can read the words below the link while you listen to the hymn.
And let us do as exhorted at the end, to enter into Christ, and His Light. Amen.
Why these bitter words of the dying, O brethren,
which they utter as they go hence?
I am parted from my brethren.
All my friends do I abandon, and go hence.
But whither I go, that understand I not,
neither what shall become of me yonder;
only God who hath summoned me knoweth.
But make commemoration of me with the song:
Alleluia.But whither now go the souls?
How dwell they now together there?
This mystery have I desired to learn,
but none can impart aright.
Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them?
Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them
and make the song:
We go forth on the path eternal,
and as condemned, with downcast faces,
present ourselves before the only God eternal.
Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth?
Where then is the glory of this world?
There shall none of these things aid us,
but only to say oft the psalm:
If thou hast shown mercy unto man, O man,
that same mercy shall be shown thee there;
and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion,
the same shall there deliver thee from want,
If in this life the naked thou hast clothed,
the same shall give thee shelter there,
and sing the psalm:
Youth and the beauty of the body
fade at the hour of death,
and the tongue then burneth fiercely,
and the parched throat is inflamed.
The beauty of the eyes is quenched then,
the comeliness of the face all altered,
the shapeliness of the neck destroyed;
and the other parts have become numb,
nor often say:
With ecstasy are we inflamed if we but hear
that there is light eternal yonder;
that there is Paradise,
wherein every soul of Righteous Ones rejoiceth.
Let us all, also, Enter into Christ,
that all we may cry aloud thus unto God:
|He is the Resurrection and the Life|