Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Exspecto in resurrectionem mortuorum

Do I believe in Ghosts?

Of course I believe in Ghosts! I say it every Sunday: Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum. = "And I expect the resurrection of the dead."

Yes; you know the ancients had a real fear of ghosts, rather akin to the typical movie sort of thing. It's one thing to be startled by something unexpected - like a bump in the night, which might be the furnace or a passing truck or a dog burping - or a family member turning over in bed. But there was once a view that the dead had nothing but antipathy for us, and death "the great unknown" was a source of fear.

As the Pink Panther once said of a crushed "priceless Steinway":

Not any more.

Things changed that Sunday morning in spring about 2000 years ago, when the women went to the tomb and found the unexpected - and for the first time since creation Surprise had dawned on human beings - and it was found to be very good.

Well, that unexpected (though predicted) news began to have an effect on people, and it changed their attitude to death - so much so that even the art and labelling of graves and tombs were altered.

Evidence for this was found in a very ancient cemetery - a pagan cemetery - buried under St. Peter's in Rome: contains an undoubted Christian grave. The name and the span of years are no longer preserved, only the words "Anno(s)" and the decisive, though somewhat mutilated "Deposita". The use of the word deponere for burial is for practical purposes exclusively Christian. The body is entrusted to the earth but only as a depository, that is, on condition that it may be recalled. This simple word thus encloses a belief in the resurrection of the body.
[Engelbert Kirschbaum, S. J. The Tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul 32]
Oh my.

You recall the parallel line in Chesterton... it's perhaps the most grand line of so many grand lines:
Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a god who knew the way out of the grave.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:382]
What a great epitaph:

Our God Knows the Way Out of the Grave!

May the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.


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