Last Things

One of my prayers at the 40 Days vigil yesterday was the Precious Blood Way of the Cross, of which each Station includes an OurFather/HailMary/GloryBe.

"...and lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

"...now and at the hour of our death."

"...a world without end."

These terminal words struck me as I was praying them consecutively, and they seemed even more pronounced as I was praying them in front of an abortion clinic, where so many children meet their end in death as a result of evil. But these are not the final words actually. It's a world without end that we pray for; it's the consolation of Mary at the hour of death we ask for; it's the deliverance from evil!

I began that vigil hour standing in the sunlight praying the Glorious mysteries.

What a blessing to reflect upon the GLORY of God in such a place! Of course, being Tuesday, I traversed the Sorrowful msyteries as well-- but it seemed auspicious to consider that GLORY is also experienced in this place of death. Glory happens here because death is not the final word.

This mystery was expressed most beautifully by His Holiness in a homily this past Sunday wherein he celebrated the lives of the four newly-canonized saints:

“He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Is 25:8). These words of the prophet Isaiah contain the promise which sustained Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception through a life of extreme physical and spiritual suffering. This exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonized saint, was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father. By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God’s grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ’s and now delights in the “rich fare and choice wines” of the heavenly kingdom (cf. Is 25:6). She wrote, “I consider a day without suffering as a day lost”. May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise.

Death is not the final word. Death was never meant to be, because the Author of Life never authored it. Eternal Life is our destination. After a day of vigil and adoration, I watched again the powerful film, "Wit" starring Emma Thompson in perhaps her finest screen portrayal as Vivian Bearing, a professor dying of ovarian cancer. Vivian holds a doctorate in metaphysical literature and the 17th poetry of John Donne figures greatly in the plot [James Reel of the Tucson Weekly describes the film's crucial scene]:

Vivian remembers herself as a 22-year-old grad student being reprimanded for a "melodramatic" analysis of Donne's 10th Holy Sonnet, using a corrupt edition with faulty punctuation. The intimidating Professor E.M. Ashford intones, "The sonnet begins with a valiant struggle with death, calling on all forces of intellect and drama to vanquish the enemy. But it is ultimately about overcoming the seemingly insuperable barriers separating life, death, and eternal life."

She quotes the sonnet's last line, inserting a central comma where an
inauthentic semicolon had intruded: "And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die."

"Nothing but a breath--a comma--separates life from life everlasting," Ashford explains. "With the original punctuation restored, death
is no longer something to act out on a stage, with exclamation points. It's a
comma, a pause. ... Life, death. Soul, God. Past, present. Not insuperable
barriers, not semicolons, just a comma."

Death will be swallowed up. Death will be rendered moot. Death will be rendered anathema. Death is just a comma.

The Glory to follow, foreshadowed in the Eucharist, witnessed by the sanctity of men and women like Alphonsa even after they have passed from this world to the next, is the final word. "Welcome, my good and faithful servant," the Lord will say to each of us, we pray, "Enter eternal life with me." This hope demands our presence at 320 E. Fulton and everywhere the Glory of God is being revealed so that we might praise and thank Him who called us into life, so that we might call each other into life with Him following His WAY, and so will call us into Life Eternal. Welcome into Glory these least among us, these precious infants, these little helpless living souls, O Lord~

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