December 5, 2012

Homeland of My Heart’s Desire

“Give me the homeland of my heart’s desire, making me again a citizen of paradise.” (from the Funeral Service)

It’s time for me to return to normal life and work, but how hard that is after these past few days of blessings surrounding my mother’s death, funeral and burial. Family members and friends coming together, uplifting prayers and services, the opportunity to reflect on a life well-lived. And above all, for me, the sense that the Orthodox way of death is so right. It has just the right balance of realism about grief intertwined with equally realistic hope. Maybe this strikes me because I’ve been around it all my life, but it’s not just me. One of the relatives, a devout Roman Catholic, took me aside to say how moved she was by all that took place in the services. The word she kept using was “tender.” It was as if we were all together lifting up, ever so gently, this woman who had fallen asleep in the faith. She was surrounded, lifted up and commended to God by this collective, tender love.

Father Alexander Schmemann talks about the unfulfilled longing that is at the heart of Christian life. Everything here on earth, all its real and precious joys that fill us with gratitude, are only a taste of the fullness of life to come. They are flashes of our true homeland, but here on earth they cannot remain “unmixed with grief.” However good it is, we can’t ever be fully satisfied with life here, and how grateful I am to know that.