Monday, October 24, 2011

The Road to Death: Alleluia

Friday night after my party I sent a Tweet that said, "Even at the grave - with all our grief - we make the song of Resurrection, proclaiming death isn't the end: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia." This will likely sound familiar to Episcopalians; it's from the burial office...sort of. People who know me well know that the original, "Even at the grave we make our song: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia" is maybe my favorite line in the Prayer Book.

A few weeks ago while listening to Tavener's "Song for Athene" I relayed in a few electronic ways something to the effect of "Even slowly or quietly 'alleluia' is exclaimed." For humanity, death is an important part of life. Without death there cannot be birth. For Christians death isn't the end, though. In dying and rising Jesus trampled down death with death and to those in the tomb bestowed life.

That's not to be Pollyanna about how it affects us, though. We miss people whom we love, and have been important to us. My cousin Caroline has been posting on Facebook today memories of Grandma that gave me flashbacks: frozen swiss cake rolls and empty shampoo bottles in the tub. Grandma has written me more mail than probably anyone else. Cards at birthdays and Christmas, goodie money when leaving Vernon for home. She's been an important part of my life.

One of the things helping me cope is the Episcopal funeral service though. People may think it morbid or macabre that I love funerals, but I think they're a time when we practice and say again what we might believe: death is not the end. It's like celebrating Easter for an individual. We pray for their resurrection to in faith and celebrate that death has lost its sting. I don't think my words are coming through clearly, though.

For me it's not about when we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be. That may help some people. Or maybe that's exactly what it is but it's not how I think about it. For me it's about Jesus, not rewards, other than being continually drawn into unity with God. That's what's helping me cope. All Saints Day and All Faithful Departed are my favorite days of the year, and I think it's because in my brain we're continuing Easter for people we've known personally.

We call them to mind and remember that because of God's work in Christ death no longer has a hold on us. In being joined to Christ in our baptisms we are joined to the Resurrection then. We grieve, but our grief doesn't have the final word.


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