4 August 2013

On the Christian hope

The most stirringly beautiful declarations of faith and hope are the anthems appointed for Christian funerals and burials in the US Book of Common Prayer 1979.

At the church:
I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord.
Whoever has faith in me shall have life,
even though he die.
And everyone who has life,
and has committed himself to me in faith,
shall not die for ever.

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

For none of us has life in himself,
and none becomes his own master when he dies.
For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,
and if we die, we die in the Lord.
So, then, whether we live or die,
we are the Lord's possession. 
Happy from now on
are those who die in the Lord!
So it is, says the Spirit,
for they rest from their labours. 
(pages 491-492)
On leaving the church:
Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and giving life to those in the tomb.

The Sun of Righteousness is gloriously risen,
giving light to those who sat in darkness
and in the shadow of death.

The Lord will guide our feet into the way of peace,
having taken away the sin of the world.

Christ will open the kingdom of heaven
to all who believe in his Name, saying,
Come, O blessed of my Father;
inherit the kingdom prepared for you.

Into paradise may the angels lead you.
At your coming may the martyrs receive you,
and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.
(page 500)
At the grave:
Everyone the Father gives to me will come to me;
I will never turn away anyone who believes in me.

He who raised Jesus Christ from the dead
will also give new life to our mortal bodies
through his indwelling Spirit.

My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.

You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fulness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. 
(page 501) 
These are texts every Episcopalian should be familiar with. They're very comforting when in a transitive process. Life is a constant funeral, and I don't mean that in a depressingly negative sense. Our lives are a cycle of dying and being made new. At times and in all places, we joyfully look to the Resurrection of Jesus with hope.

I'm going to toe the official line, and reference the Catechism of the Episcopal Church found in The Book of Common Prayer:
Q. What is the Christian hope?
A. The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fulness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in  glory, and the completion of God's purpose for the world.
Q. What, then, is our assurance as Christians?
A. Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
(page 862)
I really believe this is how we ought to live life: Hopefully, with this assurance that nothing can separate us from God's love. We rest in that love in life, in death, and in life beyond death.

To God we belong, and to God we shall return. God is our constant refuge and strength now and unto eternity. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. Saranam.

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