Two priests stood in the doorway to the chapel, their white satin robes with gold embroidery standing out against the wood of the foyer/entry way as family and friends gathered around the coffin in the foyer. The sunlight poured through open doors to rest on the flag covered coffin as the white gloved pollbearers stood ready to carry it in. The priest with a microphone intoned his greeting and solemn prayer of thanks for the departed's life, and then turning, began to walk down the aisle. Behind him, two women in dark robes, carrying large lighted candles, followed slowly, gazing straight ahead. The procession made it's way to the front of the chapel, ending next to the baptismal font. The family filed into the wooden pews, filling up the first three rows. A blessing was intoned on the departed, and Holy Water was sprinkled as a reminder of his baptism and the knowledge that he was being awaited by his Lord. They then removed the flag and draped the coffin in material matching the robes of the priests. The coffin was then moved to one side, and the services were began.
In case you were curious, I wasn't able to post a blog last week because I was attending a funeral in California. This was the first time I've seen a Catholic type funeral. It was only the second or third time I've been in a different church for services other than LDS. The previous visits were not pleasant ones, and so attending this ceremony with no meaningful glances or priest calling down the righteous anger of the Lord for the sinners was nice.
My husband's father joined the church when he moved to Utah before he married my mother-in-law. His mother joined a couple of years after that, remaining staunch and faithful, despite being the only one in her family to attend. Her other son (my husband's uncle -- the one who's funeral this was) joined the Catholic faith in his 20's, and apparently remained faithful throughout his life, though it didn't change any of his personal habits - perhaps that's only an LDS trait. Grin.
Anyway, I found it interesting how things were so different, yet had some points that were the same. They had crucifixes on the wall, but the one in the center of the main wall was lovely, carved from wood. It wasn't the typical anorexic and suffering Savior, but a clothed and loving Lord with His hands reaching out. No one was pressured into anything - if you didn't participate, you weren't called to repentance. The thing that I found the most interesting, was the reading of scripture.
They read, in particular, a verse from the New Testament I think all of us are familiar with -- about Charity. 1 Corinthians 13. It talks about how charity never faileth, etc. However, in the version of scripture they were reading from, they changed the wording. They changed charity to love.
Now, most people wouldn't see any problem with that. Love isn't a bad thing, right? And yet, I felt it changed the whole meaning significantly. Charity is the Pure Love of Christ. It's not just love. The pure love of Christ brings a new meaning to the word. It's not just love when you feel like it, or because you're a parent, or when someone has done something that made you happy. It's love that comes from deep inside and overpowers all negative thought. It's the change of heart that Alma talks about.
I thought of this because of my earlier post where we talked about words, and how there are so many different ones with different meanings. While to most, substituting love for Charity would be no big deal, in fact they would think the two synonymous -- it changes the most basic text for me.
I'll leave you with the words from the priest who blessed the coffin at the graveside, wearing jeans under his white satin robes: "Okay, everyone take care traveling home. It's time to party hardy."