Saturday, December 08, 2012

Standing by the Grave

"UNTO Almighty God we commend the soul of our sister departed, and we commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the earth and the sea shall give up their dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his own glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

ALMIGHTY God, with whom do live the spirits of those who depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; We give thee hearty thanks for the good examples of all those thy servants, who, having finished their course in faith, do now rest from their labours. And we beseech thee, that we, with all those who are departed in the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

MOST merciful Father, who hast been pleased to take unto thyself the soul of this thy servant; Grant to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, that having served thee with constancy on earth, we may be joined hereafter with thy blessed saints in glory everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

(Excerpts from The Book of Common Prayer (1928); "The Order for The Burial of the Dead".)

From time to time over the years, I have contemplated the fact that in the normal course of providence in a fallen and broken world, eventually we all become orphans. It is not about becoming orphans as children of miner age, though that does happen. It is about how we as adult grown children watch our parents age and weaken physically and sometimes mentally, and that even to the point of dependency on those who had one time been dependent on them, and then succumbing to the final enemy of death.

I have watched over the years as some of my cousins become orphans as my beloved and aged Aunts and Uncles passed on. Over those passing years I have seen friends and acquaintances of my own generation go through the valley of losing beloved mothers and fathers to the grave; to become motherless and fatherless; to become orphaned in this world.

As of this week I and my surviving siblings are half way there. We are now motherless. Today we watched our departed 92 year old mother be laid into the grave alongside of her daughter, our older sister, who left us about two and a half years ago. Our 95 year old father is now bereft of the wife and companion who had been at his side for over 69 years. My sister and brother and I know that eventually our father will also depart from us; that the day will come when we will be left among the orphans of the earth even as both our mother and father have been left orphans by the previous deaths of our grand-parents.

No, we did not use the Anglican liturgy at the memorial service or graveside. Anglicism is not our family church tradition or background, and in fact is some distance from it. But even then, I have just enough familiarity with the Prayer Book service for the burial of the dead that I found comfort and encouragement in its words as I have shared above.

Rather then expound further on the meaning and comfort to be taken from the words quoted above, I will leave it for you the reader to read them again and meditate on the Gospel truth and hope those words convey.

Kyrie, eleison.

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