Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"A Memorial Service To Celebrate The Life Of..."

I just don't get non-Catholic funerals. Of course I can appreciate the beauty of the traditional Anglican service ("Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay....") but on the whole I don't get this stuff about what a great geezer the deceased was. Those who love him or her will greave and remember, but Almighty God knows the inner workings of every heart and doesn't need a testimonial. I suppose that's why Catholic priests are forbidden to eulogise, but as with so many things in the last 40 years that seems to be falling by the wayside.

It's exemplified by the final ritual in the burial of a Hapsburg Emperor:

When Emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria died in 1916, his was the last of the extravagant imperial funerals. A great procession of dignitaries decked out in their imperial regalia followed the coffin, draped in black and bearing the gold imperial colours. The funeral cortege descended the stairs of the Capuchin Monastery in Vienna and at the bottom of the stairs was a great iron door leading to the Hapsburg family crypt. Behind the door was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna.

The officer in charge of the funeral cortege began the ancient, established burial ritual by crying out: "Open!" From behind the door, the Cardinal responded:"Who goes there?" The officer responded: "We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary,Defender of the Faith, Prince of Bohemia-Moravia, Grand Duke of Lombardy..." The officer continued on with the Emperor’s thirty-seven titles to which the Cardinal from behind the door responded: "We know him not. Who goes there?"

The officer spoke again, this time using a more abbreviated series of titles reserved for times of emergency."We know him not," the Cardinal responded again. "Who goes there?"

The third time, the officer responded, stripping the Emperor of all his grand titles:"We bear the body of Franz-Josef, our brother, a sinner like us all!"

At that, the doors swung open, and Franz-Josef’s body was admitted.

I've been watching bits of the Michael Jackson Car Crash Memorial Concert/Service thingy. It confirms the wisdom of the Catholic attitude to death and mourning.

First up he's lying there in an oversized fish poacher.

Various celebs are saying he's The King of Pop (who gave him that title?) and the Greatest Entertainer Ever. Puh-leaze! Even if he was he's facing Judgement - the throne of Almighty God Himself - he needs your prayers, guys, not some BS about what an all round Top Bloke he was when in fact he was a deeply damaged individual, The Folly of Celebrity and Hubris Incarnate.

Some of this is personal. I never liked his music. While others were getting worked up about Thriller and Bad, I was listening to The Fall and The Smiths. I thought the best thing he ever did was to sing Earth Song at The Brits in 1996 . Not for the song - I found it nearly blasphemous in its presentation - but for the chance he gave Jarvis Cocker to upstage him.

Still, de mortuis nil nisi bonum. Pray for his soul and the souls of the faithful departed. He needs that more than a bunch of celebs dancing on his catafalque.

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Blogger Patricius said...

Sort of puts the Rocky Horror liturgies into some perspective, I suppose.

10:11 PM  

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