The World to Come

“I look for [yearn for] the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (Ending of the Nicene Creed)

Funeral homes – as they are called nowadays – are not literally “homes,” but more like way stations; or put in a more contemporary phrase, “terminals.” They are a stopping place on the way from life to life everlasting, our earthly houses and our eternal residence. They offer a welcome service to the family of the deceased, photographs from the past life. Some, utilizing modern technology, present slide shows, affirming the blessings of human existence. But death is not the conclusion of existence. Jesus makes that point clear in the gospel; otherwise His command to “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead,” (Matthew 8:22) seems harsh and insensitive. What does He mean, and why would He say this?

He is referring to His own people and to those who are also fixated by death. They are unable to grasp the significance of His cross, that “stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks…but to those who are called…the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23). The Nicene Creed begins by defining the divine Father and concludes with our desire to be with Him forever. Here is the ultimate purpose of life. All that happens from birth to death plays a part in our salvation. Here is the true peace that transcends all comprehension. Here is where the believer will uncover the secret joy within the soul. Only Christ can deliver such ecstasy. Here is why Jesus compels us to get beyond mourning and greet the everlasting morning that has no evening. A Russian poet, Zinaida Nikolayevna Hippius, wrote:

I shall not leave too long a trace
In people’s painless memory…
This ghost of life if hollow, false
And vague. What good is it for me?
But here on this earth while my flesh
Can still alive and breathing be,
I have but one concern and care:
That God will never forget me.

When we conclude every funeral and requiem with the haunting phrase: “Let [his/her/ their] memory be eternal!” we realize that with the saints who are canonized by the Holy Church, most of the rest of us eventually will be forgotten by the world that gets along fine without us – that doesn’t much matter. However, the Almighty Who knows how many hairs are on our heads [Matthew 10:30] will never forget who we are, who we were, and what we became through our ordeal of life on the planet earth. When we come to the end that is no end but a beginning of life everlasting, the Lord God of love will never forget us. Indeed, it may be that He will hold up before us the “white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it,” [Revelations 2:17] and if found worthy we shall learn what it was that the Lord Himself had intended for our sojourn on earth, and how near or far we had come to having achieved His plan for our lives. Beyond that, if found worthy, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.” [3:5]