Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


This morning I had seen over on Episcopal Cafe this very interesting virtual art exhibit of tomb statues of mourners at the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy. I immediately became captivated by them. Evidently, the various dukes must have wanted to be mourned in perpetuity, long after those who remembered them in the flesh were gone.

So why, in the first week of the 50 days of celebrating resurrection, was I captivated by statues of mourners?

This one, in particular, struck me. He is putting his robe up to his eyes, obviously crying. But his face is covered by his hood. He does not want everyone to see that he is tearful. It made me realize that sometimes, in seasons of joy, we can become so caught up in the joyfulness that we forget to notice those in the background who are mourning. We might not have noticed this person was mourning had he not been caught dabbing his eyes with his robe. Maybe he is just a solemn face in a crowd otherwise.

Part of the spirit of the Resurrection, I believe, is to comfort those who mourn in the face of joy, because whatever causes them to mourn is not to be ignored in the face of joy, but perhaps "brought along for the ride." The Resurrection is big enough to take on mourners.

This has been one of life's lessons that maturity has brought me. It used to be unnerving for me, when I was being joyful, to have an unhappy or sad person in my midst. Weren't they "getting it?" I was happy, everyone around me was supposed to be happy, why don't they just suck it up and be happy with me, at least for a little while? I used to work really hard at "getting them to come around." I was bewildered why they found my efforts painful.

But as time passes, and I start becoming more aware that the Easter message is not of my making, nor is its power mine to control, I have become far less unnerved about this proposition. As people die out of my life, and others are born behind me, and people move away and divorce and die and relationships change, I have better come to realize that grief and joy can coexist. Another's grief cannot take away joyful things that are bigger than ourselves, nor can my mood, whether it is joyful or grieving, affect the grace and peace of Christ.

This Easter weekend, I thought back to the Easters of my childhood. I am grateful I no longer have to dress up in the ridiculous outfits I was forced to wear in church at Easter. Yet I miss the baked ham at my great-grandmother's house. Memories, if remembered correctly and fully, are always two-edged. To remember only the good, or only the bad, removes the total humanity of them.

Perhaps the more important question, as I pondered this statue, is "Why did this mourner feel the need to cover his face?" I suppose the answer lies in the same places as the answers to such questions as, "Why do I always feel I need to be the stoic in the room? Why do I feel I never have the luxury to break down?" When tragedy strikes, somehow I always seem to play the role of "the strong one." The truth is, this statue is no different than me. My tears are often hidden, just as "under my hood" as those of this mourner. Sometimes I act as if my open tears will pollute the universe. It's doubtful that would be the end result of the prospect of me mourning openly.

Then I thought for a while about the purpose of these statues. The dukes of Burgundy were not exactly doing without. Yet it seemed important--a basic human need, in fact--to have eternal reminders of being a person once worth mourning. If we do things right in this world, we WILL be mourned. We all have hopes that something of us remains in this mortal coil beyond the time frame of our lives. In short, we desire a tiny sliver of immortality. Truth be known, part of what we seek when we seek a relationship with God is a slice of our own immortality in the face of a finite life span--ultimately, what we seek when we really admit "what's under it all" is some sort of assurance of "self" beyond a finite life. Christ's resurrection becomes our hope that something of us exists beyond death. Not a narcissistic hope like the dukes of Burgundy who felt insecure enough to have ready-made perpetual mourners, but a hope that transcends space and time--and maybe that is what the Resurrection is all about.

2 comments:

Sorry. Feel no need to read this.

Believe I previously mentioned that I often feel a strange connection to you - that things you say or do seem too coincidental to be random chance - are so puzzling that I feel a need to discern some meaning in them. Course, I may just be "superstitious".

Anyway, when you sent me the link to these alabaster mourners - sent it apparently by chance - one of my friends was dying - not a close friend, more a friendly neighbor - she was eighty-six - and in a steep decline - had stopped eating - was barely conscious - and death was obviously imminent. And I was mourning her loss - not with a great emotional grief - but with just that dignified, cold grief displayed by many of these alabaster figures.

Last Saturday, I carried her to her grave. So now, for her, everything truly is in the past. She was the reason why I was fascinated by the Maximov painting. Her situation and her appearance was quite similar to that of the old Russian lady - and, moreover, in one of our last conversations, back when she had hope of leaving the hospital, she told me that when she returned home, she would have me carry her big easy chair out onto the lawn, that she wanted to sit there, and feel the sun - wanted to watch the neighbors, and the squirrels, and the worm hunting robins - she wanted to sit there and wave at me whenever I walked past.

Have no clue to the significance of this - no idea of any inner purpose to my receiving these images when I did - just know that they provided some comfort - an illustration that even quiet sadness, resignation, is still mourning. So thank you.

I always write too much. Forgive me. But I just want to make one final point, one I am making at the risk of seeming effete. Music is important to me - often it seems that whatever spirituality I experience comes from music. Although I do not listen to a lot of contemporary music, one of the modern composers I do like is John Tavener - especially enjoy a piece he wrote for cello and orchestra - a very sad elegiac piece, with a beautiful, unforgettable melody, that, at times, bursts into a brilliant radiance. Always brings tears to my eyes. The piece is titled "The Protecting Veil". Not until now, did I find any significance in that title. Now when I hear it, I see your alabaster mourner, No. 52.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/recsradio/radio/B000002SRM/ref=pd_krex_listen_dp_img?ie=UTF8&refTagSuffix=dp_img

You got me YouTubing some more of Tavener's work. Wow.

As for the timing of the mourners and your mourning, I would say, some non-coincidental gifts are just that--gifts--to be simply appreciated for what they bring themselves AND for their non-coincidental nature.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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