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Hallo again to all.

We find ourselves thinking today of mourning—personal and collective. We recall vividly a black chasuble carefully preserved in a parish we once attended.* The chasuble was splendid but consigned to a glass display, since now the custom in our part of the Anglican world is for the liturgical color of funerals to be white almost exclusively. This is, of course, for good reason since it is also the contemporary color of Easter and therefore of resurrection.

One of our favourite passages in a Book of Common Prayer is the opening sentence in a contemporary language funeral rite:

I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord.

These words are doubtless familiar to most readers of Anglicans Online, albeit with the articles included: 'the' resurrection and 'the' life. Yet that usage misses some of the majesty in John's Gospel: Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή. The definite article '' in Greek often signified not just the meaning we give it in English but also had a generalizing force. Jesus asserts that he is not merely a particular resurrection or life, he is those things in their totality.

Even if the majority of translators have historically put the definite article there, the church has assuredly taken those words to heart in the fullest sense. As early as the second and third centuries AD, respectively, Tertullian argued fiercely that Christians should not be cremated, as did Minucius Felix. While there are good environmental and aesthetic arguments to be made for cremation in the modern world, we cannot help but admire the fierce belief in Resurrection that this early insistence on burial made concrete.

Christians have mourned tragedy and loss with our fellow citizens in every land in which we sojourn. The Anglican tradition, with its origins in and ties to the British state has always had a firm concern for the commonweal.  The Great Litany of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, aside from prayers for the monarch and government, also remembered the weak and destitute:

That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand, and to comfort and help the weak hearted, and to raise up them that fall, and finally to beat down Satan underneath our feet.

Courage, comfort, and some portended justice towards an adversary—a potent mix indeed. All of these emotions resonate as we meet the tragedies of the modern era, moreso on days that remind us of needless destruction in so many places, among so many peoples. So too do the words of Compline mentioned by this very publication last week.

Thinking once more of the black chasuble that provided a mental image for this letter, it is perhaps truly fitting that it is, for all its beauty, for all the needed reminder it serves of our mortality and God's mercy, behind glass. Black was indeed the traditional color of the Sarum Use for funerals. Customs change. We mark feasts of Our Lady with blue, whereas Sarum used white for these as with Easter season. For us, we have extended the use of white beyond the liturgical season, to become a symbol of resurrection in a pastoral office. It is our badge that death is not the end, just as early Christians argued fiercely that to be cremated might deny a bodily resurrection.

So, as we look at a world that seems increasingly called into mourning, we remember that the funeral rite's commendation includes still another affirmation of resurrection and courage. As it says, 'All of us go down to the dust. Yet even at the grave we sing our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.'

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

*Not the one pictured here.

11 September 2016

A thin blue line
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