One last time...
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:34 AM [+]
As we carried my Grandmother into her Roman Catholic Church, I was very powerfully moved. They laid upon her casket a white garment (a symbol of her baptismal garment and entrance into the Christian life) and sprinkled it with holy water…almost as if she were re-experiencing her baptism that took place so many years ago. We then followed her to the front of the Church and proceeded with the RC Mass, which I was able to follow along with quite easily given my experience with the Episcopal Church.
But I found myself really “losing it” as the beauty and sadness of the moment became clear to me. This church, which I now (and had never before) sat in, was profoundly important to my Grandmother; it was a lifeline to her and she fed at the table here for many years. I began to weep at the thought of this being her opportunity to worship and commune here one last time. How appropriate that we should meet with her and God in this place which so nourished her. Sad, that we cannt now see how that nourishment which St. Ignatios termed "the medicine of immortality" is working to undue the corruption of this world...Pascha is coming though and with it the fullness of that medicine.
Kit, godfather to two of my kids, related to me about his experience with Orthodox funerals and it sounds amazing. While I had done some reading and knew a few things about it, he mentioned that at a funeral held at our church they did a traditional all night vigil the night before the funeral proper in which the body is in the nave (with casket almost always open) while people either chant or read from the psalms throughout the night – which is exactly what we do at the tomb of Christ on Holy Friday night. Beautiful.
Anyone who has ever seen a vampire movie will recall the positioning of the hands of the dead laid in a casket: right arm over top of the left, both laid across the deceased’s chest. The vampire legend originated from eastern (Orthodox) Europe naturally used this positioning of the body and apparently it seemed “cool” or perhaps “spooky” enough to be used by moviemakers. In truth, there is profound beauty in such positioning of the body – for that is the position we adapt as we move toward the chalice of the Holy Eucharist each and every Sunday…unless of course you are carrying a kid! (Thank God for Godparents!)
After the funeral, my aunt suggested that I keep Grandma's rosary because she figured I'd be the only one to use it in our family. Of course I had to explain that we Orthodox do not say the "Rosary", but that we do have a similar tradition with which I'd be able to make use of it. I don't know for sure that I will ever use it in place of my prayer rope, but I am very happy that she thought to give it to me. I will keep it on our family altar and will perhaps use it to say the Jesus Prayer for her - a practice I'd heard of but never done, but it seems very appropriate to prayer thus for our deceased.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Grandma