Posted by: fvbcdm | February 23, 2012

Feast of Saint Polycarp (23 Feb 2012)

Yesterday afternoon, on Ash Wednesday, Pope Benedict followed the tradition of going to the top of the Aventine Hill, the highest of Rome’s famed “seven hills.”  He went first to the Benedictine abbey of San Anselmo; from there, there was a procession to our Dominican church of Santa Sabina, just about a block away.  And there, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass and received and then distributed ashes. He spoke about the unity of the human race with the rest of our cosmos, alluding to the second creation story in Genesis 2:7.  For the Church each Ash Wednesday recalls the words that we find in the first book of the Bible: “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.”  And then, when Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, he said to them, “You are dirt and to dirt you shall return.”   

Here in our southern Dominican province, we have several burial places and we are allowed to choose the one where we would like to be laid to rest.  We may also choose to be buried bodily or to be cremated.  That is a relatively new option; when I was a child, the Church still forbade cremation since her enemies often used cremation as a means of denying the doctrine of the resurrection.  


While we’re thinking about these matters, let us use our Ash Wednesday themes well. We certainly ARE from the earth on which we live; it is also certain that we will one day return to our component parts, when this living soul of ours departs the body and leaves it lifeless.  Is this morbid thinking?  Not at all!  We were not made for this life, but for the next.  And in the next life, we will have a vibrant body and a life-giving soul.  As Father James Fox, the abbot of the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani, wrote to the Baroness von Trapp when one of her daughters died in childbirth, “We envy your sorrow, and Martina her heaven.”  With our Christian faith, death is a reason for endless rejoicing, not for endless sadness.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.


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