Lasting Words: The Epistle

If I wrote a letter to those who were grieving my death, what would I write?  This is one of the questions that I asked myself last year in my post, Preparing to Die in 5 Easy Steps.  I also made a commitment to choose the Bible readings that I would like read at my Funeral Mass.  These two efforts find communion in the words of St. Paul – one of the Scripture passages that I choose for when my loved ones say goodbye to me, whenever that may be.

As I am busy writing my book, God willing, I share this reading with you, dear reader.  (I will be checking the comments, so please keep up the bothering and encouraging so that I can stay on track!)

The words that follow are definitely those of St. Paul.  My letter to my loved ones will be different.  But, there is a tenderness in what St. Paul has to say to the Philippians that touches my heart and, I hope, will touch the heart of those who will hear it at my funeral, whenever that may be.  The way that he combines his expressions of affection and his joyful encouragement toward unity and kindness with the jaw-dropping reality of the Mystery of the Incarnation fills me with delight – this is Christianity.  A call to love, humility, compassion, and generosity, to union with divinity – through Christ, who is God… humble, compassionate, generous… love itself.

Wonder of wonders…

Rose, hands, Christian, help, Elderly

Philippians 2:1-15

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy,

complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,

each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Christ, Divine Mystery, God, Incarnation, Divine IncarnateRather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness;

and found human in appearance,

he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him

and bestowed on him the name

that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus

 

 

every knee should bend,

of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that

Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.

Do everything without grumbling or questioning,

that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world…”

© 2018 Christina Chase


Bible passage taken from the NAB

Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash

Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

 

5 thoughts on “Lasting Words: The Epistle

  1. Good evening Christina,

    Here is most of that passage as we used to sing it in Holy Week in my distant youth, but 50-60 of us together. We were well drilled, but no recordings of us! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOGS5XpiRPg {If that does not work, try typing in Christus factus est pro nobis}. Another good one, though I’d veer towards John’s Epistles.

    Did I get it right that it’s your birthday? Many happy returns!

    My wife, who nurses in the local hospice, would endorse your practicality around death. She has found us a couple of spare spaces in the local cemetery, too narrow to allow headstones. I think I’d rather pay for a bench or for trees. Who will know who I am or was, 150 years from now? Unless someone ‘of your charity prays for the soul of me’ in passing, there’s little point in a stone. Though my grandfather, dead these 87 years, was given a stone when my younger cousin who knew him no more than I did, arranged to be buried in his plot. It mattered to Frances that he be remembered…

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    • Beautiful chant! Thank you for sharing!

      No, it’s not my birthday – but I will take your wishes for a good one early! I’ll be celebrating the anniversary of my birth during Easter week this year.

      Please send my admiration and gratitude to your wife for her work in hospice. I’ve added her in my prayers. She is also good to plan ahead for the two of you! My parents and I already have burial plots in Evergreen Cemetery. If you were to walk through the woods behind our house for about half a mile, you would come to a tiny pond where lady slippers grow. On the other side of the pond, the woods open to reveal the cemetery where the mortal remains of four generations of my family (Chase) are buried. We drive by this place on our way home every Sunday after Mass and say a prayer for the souls of my great-grand parents, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, my aunt who was killed at the age of 20 in a plane crash, my second cousin who lived with severe mental disabilities the whole of her short life, and all of my fellow townsfolk who have their monuments erected there. It’s a peaceful place on an eastward facing slope of hill, a good place to be remembered, or even forgotten, while awaiting the resurrection on the last day.

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  2. We’re the first generation on both sides here in Canterbury so no-one locally to snuggle up to. Janet’s parents are together near Manchester – I had the privilege of conducting their funerals – and my father is with the Cistercians at Mount St Bernard; room for ashes only, and for mother’s as well, in God’s good time. She did not know her father – he died tragically when she was a babe in arms – so unlike her niece has no burning wish to be interred with him.

    As if there won’t be world enough and time to meet up …

    If Janet goes first I shall have to have Mary Webb’s lines about the blackbird singing over her grave inscribed somewhere. “Under a blossoming tree/Let me lie down/With one blackbird to sing to me.”
    English Blackbirds do sing, and are tuning up now. Spring has serious intentions around here, though we had a frost last night.

    https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/blackbird/

    Now I’ve eaten into your concentration and book preparation. Mea Maxima culpa!

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    • No need to beat the chest – your words are always inspiring..
      The only lines that I knew about English blackbirds were from the Beatles: “Blackbird singing in the dead of night take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arrive…”
      Poetic lines that I had once thought about putting on my tombstone are from Rumi:
      “Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.
      When from that tree feathers and wings sprout on you,
      be quieter than a dove. Don’t even open your mouth for
      even a coo.”
      To me, this goes with what I would now prefer:
      “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

      I do love your thought: “As if there won’t be world enough and time to meet up …”

      Putting together the first draft of my book now (many documents into one) to find the missing pieces!
      Pax Christi

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  3. Pingback: Lasting Words: The Gospel | Divine. Incarnate.

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