DID YOU KNOW?
CREMATION IS UNCHRISTIAN
From time to time it’s necessary to expose the unchristian elements of society which masquerade as Christian.
Among the more successful of such masqueraders is the practice of cremating the dead. A recent District Pastors’ Conference dealt with this topic in some detail, and I thought it might be good to recount here some of the discussion.
The origin of cremation is unques-tionably pagan. It is no secret to historians that the practice of crema-tion has been prevalent in many pagan societies dating back to 2000 BC, and remains a major practice associated with disposing of dead bodies among the Hindus and others to this day.
But contrast, the people of Israel never engaged in it, in spite of its use by nearby nations. The burials of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their wives are recorded in Genesis. Joseph’s burial is recorded in the last verse of Genesis. The burial of Moses by the LORD Himself is recorded in the final chapter of the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 34).
So also in the New Testament, burial is assumed to be the proper means of treating the bodies of the dead. The body of John the Baptist was buried by his disciples (St. Mark 6:29), and the burial of Lazarus is well known, for Jesus called him out of the tomb (St. John 11). The graves of many saints are mentioned in St. Matthew 27. There is not a single instance of cremation of an Israelite or Christian throughout all of Scripture, in spite of the widespread prevalence of the practice elsewhere.
The incarnation of our Lord is at the heart of the Christian religion, and His sanctification of human flesh by His own union with it is at the heart of Christian respect for the body. The bodies of all saints have been honored by virtue of the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh.
Upon Jesus’ own death, the women bought spices to anoint Him, determined even in their grief to treat His holy body with dignity. His bodily resurrection from the dead is all the more reason to count the body as a sacred thing.
St. Paul consequently enjoins us, saying, your body is “the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you” I Cor. 6:19), and therefore exhorts, “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20). This certainly applies to the respect for which our bodies should be treated even after our souls have left them, and is the reason the Christian Church has historically forbidden cremation.
Only in very recent years have any Christian churches permitted cremation. Until the twentieth century, in all of Christendom cremation was strictly forbidden.
Some people today think cremation is an acceptable way to deal with the bodies of the dead for several reasons. These reasons should be considered and answered.
First, cremation tends to be cheaper, and so, the reasoning goes, it’s less burdensome on loved ones who remain.
Second, people say life is spiritual, and what’s spiritual about a dead body? Who needs it?
Third, bodies decay over time, and eventually end up just like ashes anyway, so, they say, what’s the difference?
And finally, people reason that the earth will run out of room for burying the dead.
These objections might be well-intentioned, but they are ill-informed.
The reference to savings of money is nothing new, and we recall the scorn with which the woman was treated who anointed Jesus with expensive ointment which “might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor” (St. Mark 14:5). Just as our offerings are in part used to honor our place of worship, so we ought to be willing to provide funds for the proper treatment of the bodies of Christians.
Secondly, “spiritual” Christian life does not mean anti-material. After all, the Christian faith is centered in the union of heaven and earth in the Person of Jesus Christ. It is improper to think of material substance as inherently evil.
Third, the fact that bodies decay over time does not provide us with reason to dishonor them.
Finally, any funeral director can tell you that there is abundance of room for proper burials; the notion that we’ll run out of space is not informed by actual statistics.
So when you plan to consider your own funeral, be sure above all that you do not agree to cremation. Though many have agreed to it in the past, and may have done so in complete ignorance of these matters, it is better to be well-informed and to let your faith be guided by the best in Christian tradition. Always remember the dignity of the human body. Always say no to cremation.
In fact, the best of Christian burial traditions includes having the funeral at the church, the very place where the Christian received the body of Christ.
Oktoberfest Thank You
A sincere thank you to everyone who helped with Oktoberfest 2009. to EVERYONE who brought desserts or other food, DeAnne Anderson and helpers who made the German potato salad (it was delicious), Jean Russell who makes the best homemade sauerkraut, those who helped with the decorating, those who helped with the serving of the food, those who helped with the c lean-up (sooo grateful), those who helped with monetary gifts and everyone who attended the Choral Vespers and banquet. Also thank you to all who helped with the breakfast and noon meal on Monday and helped with the clean-up on Monday. A special thank-you to Steve and Bea Harris and Sandra Verplaetse for taking care of the registration, folders, display and registration table, name tags, etc. Thanks to Tom Wells for all the pumpkins used for the decorations including the “Giant” pumpkin. And thank-you to our Master Chef, Father Eckardt, and his assistant Steve for cooking the brats to perfection! We are truly blessed to have such a loving church family here at St. Paul’s.
More Oktoberfest Thanks
To the men who, during and before the Oktoberfest preparations, worked on screening the bell tower (it took three Saturdays for Otis Anderson, Scott Clapper, Tom Wells, Allan Kraklow, and Steve Kraklow to do it): Thank you!
And One More Thank You
And back at you, Judy Thompson!: Thank you for all your tireless efforts to coordinate and plan and execute details down to the last. We couldn’t have pulled it off without you.
All Souls Mass Nov. 2
Between our regular first Monday Altar Guild an Elders meetings this month, we will observe All Souls Mass (Commemoration of the Faithful Departed) at 7 p.m. Join us!
11/2 Jane Melchin
11/10 Cassandra Krueger
11/11 Ruth Melchin (93)
11/13 Shannon Peart
11/14 Carol Robinson
11/15 Kami Boswell
11/19 Steve Kraklow
11/20 Jewneel Walker
11/30 Adam Sovanski
11/30 Charlene Sovanski
11/5 Steve and Berniece Harris
11/11 Gayle and Phil Beauprez
Otis Anderson Scott Clapper, John Ricknell, Bill Thompson
Thanksgiving to be observed November 25th
As usual, we will celebrate Thanksgiving the night before Thanksgiving Day, Wednesday, November 26th, at our regular 7 pm hour. Come and worship, giving thanks to almighty God for His rich benevolence and grace.
Private Confession is always available to anyone between 6 and 6:30 pm on these Wednesdays, and also, as always, by appointment.
Carole Sanders at home; Mary Hamilton at home; Ruth Snider at home; Mark Baker at home, and Anna Baker at home. Mirilda Greiert at Courtyard Estates; Elva Garrison at Avon Nursing Home; Ruth Melchin at Hillcrest Home; Don Clapper at Royal Oaks; Jane Melchin at Lutheran Home, Peoria.
Altar Guild Notes
All Saints Day will be observed Sunday, November 1. Color is red. All Souls Day (The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed) is a First Class Feast, Mass is scheduled for 7 pm (during first Monday meetings). Color is white. For Wednesday Mass that week, November 3rd, the color is green. Thanksgiving is observed Wednesday night, November 25th. Color is White. First Sunday in Advent is November 29th. Color is Purple beginning on Saturday, November 28th.
For daily prayer in the homes of members, the following helps are offered:
Use your hymnal. The order of matins (morning) or vespers (evening) is easily adoptable for personal use.
A more brief form of prayer, as given in the catechism, is to say the Invocation, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and as a closing option Luther’s morning or evening prayer.
The hymnal is also a good resource for a schedule of daily readings. See page 161. These readings correspond with the material in Every Day Will I Bless Thee: Meditations for the Daily Office, my book of meditations for daily use.
+ Pastor Eckardt
First Monday Nov. 2
On Monday, November 2nd, Altar Guild meets as usual at 6 p.m., and Elders at 7:45 p.m. Between them is All Souls Mass at 7 p.m., conveniently placed so both groups can attend. All members are invited to attend All Souls Mass.
Looking ahead: 3-5 January 2010
An Epiphany retreat:
two Days of Theological Reflection
starting with the
Annual Christmas Choral Vespers
The January Days of Theological Reflection will begin with our annual Christmas Choral Vespers on Sunday night the 3rd of January, and then Monday and Tuesday, the 4th and 5th, from 8:30 – 3:30. This twelfth retreat in the series, will focus on King Solomon. This retreat’s theme is
“He Shall Sit upon My Throne in My Stead.”
We’ll examine the first eleven chapters of the book of 1 Kings, with an eye to finding Christ there, as He himself said of the Scriptures, “They testify of me.”
Sunday evening’s Choral Vespers, at 7 p.m., is always followed by our wine and cheese reception in the school cafeteria, another annual tradition. If there is inclement weather, a snow date is scheduled for Monday, January 4th, at 7 p.m.
Jazz on the Side has become a regular hobby of your pastor and subdeacon. It’s the name of the Kewanee Community Jazz Ensemble. Pastor Eckardt is the pianist, and Steve Harris brings his tenor sax. And the group is scheduled to play on Saturday night, December 19th, at the Flemish-American Club. Don’t know the details yet, but it might be open to the public.
The Lighter Side
A man dies and goes to Heaven. He gets to meet God and asks if he can ask him a few questions.
"Sure," God says, "Go right ahead".
"OK," the man says. "Why did you make women so pretty?"
God says, "So you would like them."
"OK," the guy says. "But how come you made them so beautiful?"
"So you would love them", God replies.
The man ponders a moment and then asks, "But why did you make them such airheads?"
God says, "So they would love you!"
Feel free to join us every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. for low mass. The service runs a little over a half hour.
Feel free to join us most Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. for mid-day prayers, followed by our radio recording session at 2:30.
Catechesis for new members is on Saturdays at 9 am, but anyone can come (and some others do). Feel free to join us.
Keeping the Feast: A Study of the Holy Liturgy (continued)
The History of the Liturgy, cont.
Already as early as the end of the first century, there is evidence of a fixed order for the Eucharist. Ignatius of Antioch (d 107) insists on the one Eucharist in a way that implies a uniform rite. He renounces the Docetists, early heretics who denied the incarnation, by holding their sin to be that they abstain from the Catholic liturgy held in communion with the bishop. According to Fortescue, there is evidence of a constant belief among the early Fathers that even the arrangement of the liturgy was a tradition from Christ and His Apostles. Whether they were right about this is not as significant as the fact that they could not have thought so unless there was already in their time a fixed order. (Fortescue 15, 51-52).
This is not surprising, inasmuch as the heart of what it meant to be Christian was to be at worship. Anglican scholar Gregory Dix has aptly demonstrated that the very term “church” was not used in reference to the building, but rather to the solemn assembly for the liturgy, until the third century (Dix, the Shape of the Liturgy [London: Continuum, 2003; first printing 1945], 19-20).
Even though in the first three centuries there were no books or officially stereotyped rites, if we assume that very early there was primarily an oral tradition, a younger bishop when his turn came to celebrate, could do no better than to continue to use the very words, as far as he remembered them, of the venerable predecessor whose prayers the people, and perhaps himself as deacon, had so often followed and answered with reverent devotion. The strong feeling of loyalty to the mother-church from which they had received the faith is noticed in all the early missionary churches. (Fortescue, 55-56)
There is compelling evidence that the introductions of variations in the rite resulted from of a perceived need to confess against various heresies that arose. Under Leo the Great (d 461), for example, words were added to the canon to refer to the host as immaculate (sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam, Fortescue 137), no doubt directed against the Manichaeans who denied the possibility that any material substance could be good (and who thus rejected the incarnation itself). This is also evidence that a shift in the arrangement of the canon under Pope Gelasius in the late fifth century was due to the Acacian schism. Bishop Acacia of Constantinople was a member of the Monophysite party, which believed that Jesus had only one nature; his rival John Talaia, the Catholic bishop, had been exiled to Rome, where he became friends with Gelasius, whose consequent adjustments to the Roman liturgy to conform with that of Talaia (Fortescue 164f) indicate a theological unity against Monophysitism. By the sixth century, the filioque (the addition of the words “and the Son” to the third article of the Creed) was commonly said in many places, and at the council of Toledo was given official recognition, as a common confession to emphasize the full divinity of the Son, against the recalcitrant Arian heresy that denied it; this of course is in keeping with the very formation of the Creed itself, in the fourth century, against Arius. The elevation of the host arose in France in the 13th century against the teaching of one Peter the Stammerer who held a questionable view regarding the efficacy of the Words of Institution.
In short, the shape of the liturgy can be traced to the Church’s desire to confess liturgically what she believed, in the face of heresies which denied those things.