Today I want to talk about death. Not necessarily yours or mine, but, rather, the way people of faith talk about death.
To do that, I want to share with you some words I found in a recent issue of the Orthodox Observer (www.observer.goarch.org), a newspaper of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, although you could find other interesting words about death in the obituary page of The Kansas City Star any day of the week. In fact, try reading through all the obits some day thinking about the faith of the dead person or of the family that wrote the obit. Pretty eye-opening.
A Page 1 Orthodox Observer story reported the death on Christmas Day 2004 of Metropolitan Anthony, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox community in San Francisco. He died at age 69 after a brief illness.
Here are the words spoken about Anthony by Archbishop Demetrios of America, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in the U.S.:
“Today, at the evening of Christmas day, a very prominent and beloved Hierarch of our Church in America, Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco, was called by Jesus Christ our Lord to leave this perishable world, and meet Him, and be forever with Him in the company of the saints and the righteous. …
“Deeply saddened by the sudden separation, we are comforted by the certainty that our beloved brother is with God. … We are sure that now the Holy Metropolis of San Francisco has a permanent, strong ambassador to God in the person of her departed Hierarch and we fervently pray for the repose of his soul among the great saints and pastors of the triumphant Church in heaven.”
This is soaring language and reflects the church’s theology. I especially like the phrase, “this perishable world.”
But I wonder whether sometimes our language about death is so full of flowers and hymns that it doesn’t accurately reflect the anguish and pain of the loss.
I won’t mind if people say things about me similar to the words the archbishop said about Anthony. But if that’s all that’s said, it will be disappointing. I hope, in addition to such words, a few people will scream at God for taking me and will break down with each other over how much they will miss me. Those are the kinds of words I’d prefer to have said about me when I go. Otherwise, why go?
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