A bright shovel-full of dirt
It cannot but seem odd to be dropping a shoveled mound of dirt upon the casket of a friend. Odder still, if not traumatic, for those who knew her better than I. But death stares all of us in the face, and it is no less tragic here when one goes by way of cancer than when a hundred thousand or more are swept away by the sea. We will all join them...
Let us go forth, and gaze into the tombs.
Man is naked bones, food for the worms, and stench;
and we shall learn what are riches
and vigor and beauty and strength.
...the Orthodox funeral service leaves nothing to the imagination. While the service and our prayers are for the departed, they also slap us in the face - virtually begging us to open our eyes and see.
I wept for the family as they gave their last kiss, but I also wept for us as well...all of us:
I weep and I wail when I think upon death
and behold our beauty, fashioned after the image of God
lying in the tomb disfigured, deprived of form.
O marvel! What is this mystery which befalls us?
Many of the departed's extended family were not Orthodox and I often wondered what they were thinking of the service, for by all accounts it is rather foreign to the more sterile traditions many of us are used to. But after the servant of God, Felicitas, was lowered into her tomb and Fr. James had sprinkled some dirt onto the casket, we hear brightness beginning to be most fully be expressed: "This tomb is sealed unto the glorious Second Coming of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ"
And I could not hold back a smile as we began to sing the Paschal hymn "The Angel Cried", which is a song that entreats the grieving Theotokos to rejoice, for her "Son has risen from His three days in the tomb." What a wonderful song for the family and I prayed that they would begin to allow the hymn's implications to bring some brightness amidst the sadness.
And then the Paschal greeting "Christ is Risen!" and we Orthodox answered triumphantly: "Indeed He is Risen!" And as Fr. James offered it again, I watched as many of those family members I assumed to be non-Orthdoox cracked smiles and said with great enthusiasm: "Indeed He is Risen!" And by the time of the third pronouncement, I really believe bright sadness was found by all.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:52 PM [+]