Message From +Bishop Christodoulos
Yesterday, on the subways of New York City, I was thinking about an elderly man that I had just buried. Then I saw this poem on an advertising board of the train.
by Ogden Nash
People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.
As lame as that poem is, it was actually quite refreshing to see something other than images of glamour, sex, and blasphemy in a prominent place in New York's transit system. I found it quite ironic to see the poem right next to an advertisement for Slim Fast with Anna Nicole Smith. I thought of the man in the coffin. I thought of the hymns we had just been chanting at St. Markella's Cathedral...
"Where is the pleasure in life which is unmixed with sorrow? Where is the glory which on earth has stood firm and unchanged? All things are weaker than shadow, all more illusive than dreams; comes one fell stroke, and Death in turn, prevails over all these vanities. Wherefore in the Light, O Christ, of Thy countenance, the sweetness of Thy beauty, to him whom Thou hast chosen grant repose, for Thou art the Friend of Man."
"Vanity are all the works and quests of man, and they have no being after death has come; our wealth is with us no longer. How can our glory go with us? For when death has come all these things are vanished clean away. Wherefore to Christ the Immortal King let us cry: "To him that has departed grant repose where a home is prepared for all those whose hearts You have filled with gladness.""
"Where is now our affection for earthly things? Where is now the alluring pomp of transient questing? Where is now our gold, and our silver? Where is now the surging crowd of domestics, and their busy cries? All is dust, all is ashes, all is shadow. Wherefore draw near that we may cry to our immortal King, "Lord, Your everlasting blessings vouchsafe unto him that now has gone away. bringing him to repose in that blessedness which never grows old.""
I have been asked why we kiss the body of the newly reposed person at an Orthodox funeral. The American mind set finds this repulsive. Below is what we chanted yesterday.
"Brethren, come, and let us a farewell kiss give to him whom death has taken, and offer thanks to God. For he has departed from the bosom of his kin; and he hastens to burial, no longer remembering vanity, nor yet the flesh which is often sore distressed. Where are now his kindred and comrades? Now is come the hour of partings: let us pray to the Lord to bring him to his rest.
"Looking on me as I lie here prone before you, voiceless and unbreathing, mourn for me, everyone; brethren and friends, kindred, and you who knew me well; for but yesterday with you I was talking, and suddenly there came upon me the fearful hour of death: therefore come, all you that long for me, and kiss me with the last kiss of parting. For no longer shall I walk with you, nor talk with you henceforth: for to the Judge I go, where no person is valued for his earthly station: Yea, slave and master together stand before Him, king and soldier, rich man and poor man, all accounted of equal rank: for each one, according to his own deeds shall be glorified, or shall be put to shame. Therefore I beg you all, and implore you, to offer prayer unceasingly for me to Christ our God, that I be not assigned for my sins to the place of torment; but that He assign me to the place where there is Light of Life.
"The death which Thou hast endured, O Lord, is become the harbinger of deathlessness; if Thou had not been laid in Thy tomb, then would not the gates of Paradise have been opened; wherefore to him now gone from us give rest, for Thou art the Friend of Man."
May Antonios' memory be eternal!
May the Lord's Peace be with you all,