Our conquering American culture is not very good at looking at death. We don't like to talk about it - and we like to see it even less. As a priest, I have quite a bit more access to those sacred moments at the end of someone's earthly journey and the beginning of their eternal life in God. It's also my privilege to see and participate in the celebrations after someone's passing much more often than the average person. In other eras of Christian history, this sort of distance from death wasn't really an option.
Throughout time there have been many scholars, mystics, theologians, and religious folk who have reflected on death - and, in particular, what it means to die a holy death. These things are worth reading and exploring - and death is something that merits our attention long before we come to the moment of our own. I've long been sort of fascinated with a lot of this material - but yesterday, what struck me most was something else.
I posted on facebook a line from our Burial liturgy: "All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia" (BCP, 499). In the context of Lent, we don't say the A-word. In fact, as someone commented on my post, there are many churches who literally "put away" the Alleluia - a big print out, or cut out letters, into a box or a hiding place - and it's not seen again until Easter. This can be a helpful way of teaching kids about the season of Lent - and of marking the passing of the seasons. But we say this line in our burial services no matter what season it is to remind us of Christ's victory over death.
I heard from people steadily throughout the day yesterday about this post. Apparently it was resonating all over the place. No matter the season - and even in Lent - we all need to be reminded of Christ's victory - and of the promise of life that is coming. In the face of this life - where there are many things that die - where, in fact, we often live through what feel like seasons of death, it is so important that we remind ourselves of Christ's promises.
These seasons take a variety of forms - sometimes there are seasons when we say goodbye to a number of people we love. Sometimes it's about a little death - the death of a tradition, the letting go of a job, or of a relationship - or even the death that appears all around us during the winter. But here in CT, even under the snow (which is now black and grey) - we have to remind ourselves that there is grass that will be green again. Flowers that will show signs of new life. Birds who will return to sing.
Just as surely as the seasons change - so, too, can we be sure of the promises of Christ. Even in the midst of our mourning - for whatever it is - or whoever it is that we've lost - we must always remember that we are resurrection people. We stand beside even the grave, the lowest possible point for those who put their hope in this life and in the power within themselves - and we say always - even at the grave we make our song, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
May you come to know more deeply this day of Christ's renewing presence in you.