Life, Death and Holidays

I have been spending the time after Christmas typesetting an Order of Service for a Requiem Mass and Funeral. It wasn’t what I intended, and I’m quite sure the bereaved family would much rather not have to deal with such things. They have lost someone they love at a time when everyone else seems to be holidaying and making merry.

My own father died shortly before Christmas 1999, so I have an inkling of how difficult it can be to deal with grief when the rest of the world is in festive mood. The sudden stab of memory, the tears rising in the throat, the effort it takes to appear cheerful when one has to accept invitations/attend events one would much rather refuse or ignore — they all seem much worse when tinsel and the popping of corks form the backdrop.

It is at such times that we confront the truth of Christmas. Christ was born, not so that we might indulge in some syrupy romanticism but so that we might confront the reality of sin and death. Bethlehem leads inexorably to Calvary. We know the story does not end there, that the Resurrection transforms defeat into victory and that at the end of time, when, please God, all are gathered into the Kingdom, the purpose of Christ’s earthly life will have been achieved: the salvation of mankind.

We know that, but when the heart is aching and the world seems cold and bleak, it is difficult to believe. Spare a thought (and a prayer if you can) for those who have been bereaved this Christmastide.


11 thoughts on “Life, Death and Holidays”

  1. Thank you, Sister. Last Thursday, at WOWChurch, we spent a good part of the time praying for those grieving the loss of loved ones at this time of year… It is very difficult for some, but we pray the arms of the Father encompass, the words of Jesus would heal and the Spirit console and comfort…

  2. Thank you, Sister. Here’s a verse that I often include in cards for people who are grieving at Christmas:

    “Christmas — that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything and everyone we have ever loved.”  (Augusta E. Rundel)

  3. One Christmas Eve we received news that a local young boy had drowned in a storm drain, his parents – living close by the monastery, but not regulars – asking for our prayers. They spent almost the entire Christmas period in the Abbey church, stunned, silent and grieving.

    For most of the community there was no opportunity for any direct contact with them, but for all of us the entire Christmas liturgy was filled with an unnameable sense of having them present with us at Bethlehem, mixing sorrow with joy in some hope that they could feel loved by us as by the newborn Son of God.

    Eliot’s words can perhaps give some sense of our feeling then:

    ‘All this was a long time ago, I remember,
    And I would do it again, but set down
    This set down
    This: were we lead all that way for
    Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
    We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
    But had thought they were different; this Birth was
    Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.’

    A strange, strange time; never forgotten, never fully understood. But something of God’s love for his creation did live among us all then, of that I am sure.

  4. Of the fine comments above, I would especially echo Palladian’s. Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’ is possibly my favourite poem of all time. It emphasises the ‘circular’ nature of Truth, that Life and Death/Death and Resurrection, are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes our greatest griefs turn out to be back to back with our greatest blessings, hard as that is to grasp.

    Whilst we can abundantly rejoice in the ‘felix culpa’ – the happy fault of Adam that won for us so great a Redeemer – we cannot help, through our experiences, but enter into the grief of loss of the Eden God would have preferred for us all along.

    For all professing seekers of the Kingdom, and many others too, our life here is one of exile, a spell passed in parenthesis, with only glimpses of the ‘place prepared’, as with the Transfiguration of Christ in the presence of three disciples. The foundations of faith that secures beneath our mundane reality uplifts it into ‘something beautiful for God’ and helps to ease the world’s pain. It stops the buck from being passed on.

    That God demonstrated so much tender and incomprehensible Love for us, by empathising with our situation on the profoundest level and becoming mortal, tested by Satan, is surely a sign that we are not to be forever lost in the abyss of suffering. Proof even. The ‘substance of Hope’ and the ‘evidence of things not seen’.

    We are here for such a little time. It is good to keep in mind the greatest Christmas words of comfort. Immanuel, God With Us.

  5. P.S. If it is possible and appropriate, could you please put the Order of Service that you prepared on the website?
    If not, could you perhaps suggest a link to helpful resources?
    No prob if this does not work out 🙂

  6. We lost a little granddaughter whom we expected very near Christmas day 2009, but she didn’t come to full term and died minutes after delivery the September prior. Zoe. Her name was Zoe.

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