from a Sermon by Martin Copenhaver
Leon Bloy once said, "There are places in our hearts which do not yet exist, and it is necessary for suffering to penetrate there in order that they may come into being." This insight comes close to revealing the blessedness of mourning and sorrow. True sorrow opens our being, pierces the smooth veneer of our lives and exposes our inner selves. In sorrow, the depths of our hearts are touched, carved out... carved out to leave a space for God to be received, for it is in the depths of our hearts that God is found. It is when our hearts are truly emptied out, wounded, made vulnerable, that we are able to receive the true comfort which comes from God's loving presence.
The word "to comfort" in Greek is parakalein. The noun form is Paraklete, that is, "Comforter," which is the word John uses to speak of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised to send among his disciples when he left them. Only by his leaving, and in their mourning, would they have the Paraklete, the Comforter. But parakalein also means, to summoned to one's side, and it is the word which is used to invite to a banquet. It's a wonderful double meaning. To be comforted is to be invited to life's banquet, and there to partake of all that life has to offer, to partake of both joy and sorrow because both are part of the banquet and both are part of the comfort.
Sermons: April 2005 Archives
from A Sermon for Rosh Hoshashana By Rabbi David Stern
Emunah comes to say: if we have not taken the leap of action, then our faith is incomplete. Emunah brings us the Hebrew and English word amen. When we say “Amen” at the end of a prayer, we are affirming our trust in the vision the prayer holds forth, and committing ourselves to making it happen. When we say “Amen” to a prayer for peace, we commit ourselves to working for peace. When we say “Amen” to a prayer of gratitude, we commit ourselves to living with a sense of gratitude that will exceed our sometimes nagging needs. A Jewish “Amen” comes from emunah – and so it means more than “so may it be.” It means, “So may I be.” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught: “Amen does not refer to the contents of the pronouncement, but to the person.”
Find the entire, wonderful sermon here. And first I must say that I mean no disrespect by using this excerpt here. But Rabbi Stern teaches us something important, something that has profound implications if we consider it in light of the Holy Father's reported last word. "Amen" is an obligation, a commitment of person to action. If our Holy Father's last word were Amen, it was not so much a resignation, as an enlistement. As with St. Thérèse, I have no doubt that the Holy Father will spend his heaven doing good on Earth. And so an amen implies.
from The Sermons of John Wesley
"Sermon 135--On Mourning for the Dead"
At such a loss, if considered without the alleviating circumstances, who can blame him that drops a tear? The tender meltings of a heart dissolved with fondness, when it reflects on the several agreeable moments which have now taken their flight never to return, give an authority to some degree of sorrow. Nor will human frailty permit an ordinary acquaintance to take his last leave of them without it. Who then can conceive, much less describe, the strong emotion, the secret workings of soul which a parent feels on such an occasion? None, surely, but those who are parents themselves; unless those few who have experienced the power of friendship; than which human nature, on this side of the grave, knows no closer, no softer, no stronger tie!
At the tearing asunder of these sacred bands, well may we allow, without blame, some parting pangs; but the difficulty is, to put as speedy a period to them as reason and religion command us. What can give us sufficient ease after that rupture, which has left such an aching void in our breasts? What, indeed, but the reflection already mentioned, which can never be inculcated too often, -- that we are hastening to him ourselves; that, pass but a few years, perhaps hours, which will soon be over, and not only this, but all other desires will be satisfied; when we shall exchange the gaudy shadow of pleasure we have enjoyed, for sincere, substantial, untransitory happiness?
With this consideration well imprinted in our minds, it is far better, as Solomon observes, to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting The one embraces the soul, disarms our resolution, and lays us open to an attack: The other cautions us to recollect our reason, and stand upon our guard and infuses that noble steadiness, and seriousness of temper, which it is not in the power of an ordinary stroke to discompose. Such objects naturally induce us to lay it to heart, that the next summons may be our own; and that since death is the end of all men without exception, it is high time for the living to lay it to heart.
If we are, at any time, in danger of being overcome by dwelling too long on the gloomy side of this prospect, to the giving us pain, the making us unfit for the duties and offices of life, impairing our faculties of body or mind, -- which proceedings, as has been already shown, are both absurd, unprofitable, and sinful; let us immediately recur to the bright side, and reflect, with gratitude as well as humility, that our time passeth away like a shadow; and that, when we awake from this momentary dream, we shall then have a clearer view of that latter day in which our Redeemer shall stand upon the earth; when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall be clothed with immortality; and when we shall sing, with the united choirs of men and angels, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
I am fine with those who choose not to weep and not to mourn, but to rejoice in our Pontiff's passing. I ask only that they respect that I have lost a great friend, a dear guide, a father, whose passing demands of me something more than rejoicing. I rejoice even as I sorrow. He is in a place now to better aid us all, but I will no longer see him among us. His passing fills me with great sorrow because I delighted in his presence.