Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Humanity of Sympathy

The death of a dear loved one often leads people to ask why, especially when it is one so young and sweet, as was our dear Megan. Her picture-perfect marriage to our son was such a glad occasion only three months before she was diagnosed with cancer. Little did I know, when warning them in the wedding sermon that they would undoubtedly be facing challenges together in Christ, just how great and how near these challenges would loom. And so it is natural to ask why.

And yet, strange as it may seem, in the aftermath of funeral and burial, the question does not haunt us as it does those who have no hope.

The question in fact has many answers, first of which perhaps is this: all is vanity, saith the Lord. Weddings, as beautiful and happy as they are, can easily make us forgetful of this fact, and mislead us into thinking that it is in this life that we have hope in Christ. Certainly Megan did not think so. We look for the life of the world to come.

Further, when tragedy and death visit, I have no second thoughts about why I entered this holy calling; I have no doubt that this will also be embedded in the mind of my son when he receives his Holy Orders. For in the end, what can be more valuable for the world than the preaching of the Gospel? All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever.

And there's another thing. So many have expressed their heartfelt sympathy to us in recent days, leading me to think on the matter of sympathy. From the Greek syn + pathos, it means to suffer together, to share in the sorrow. And somehow, mysteriously, the sharing of sorrows makes them a bit easier to bear than for one who must sorrow alone.

Sympathy is also a very human thing. All kinds of people can sympathize. People who didn't even know you can sympathize. Sometimes even enemies have been known to set their enmity aside, if only for a time. Yet beasts do not sympathize. It is, I think, a residual part of man's creation in the image of God, who is Himself compassionate and kind to His people. Sympathy in itself, even if it isn't specifically Christian sympathy, is a good thing. It helps define us as the princes of God's creation.

Our thanks to all who have sympathized, and with that the reassurance that, as I intimated above, we do not sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

This is the first I've heard of your loss. I'm so sorry. May God keep Megan in His bosom now and forever.

I wish I could share some fond memory of her, because I've found that the most comforting of all, when people write cards that say something like, "I'll always remember when she helped me..." But I'm sure many people are sharing those memories with you.

Fr BFE said...

Thank you. Last I saw her was the Friday before last, and was so taken with her grace and dignity, even as her flesh was wasting away, that I told her I felt as though I was with royalty. She shrugged, let out a chuckle, and said, "I didn't mean to do that." Her faith and her peaceful demeanor throughout her ordeal were rare and precious.

Rev. Daniel Robert Skillman said...

God give comfort to Megan's family, to you, and especially to your son at this loss.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Your observation regarding sympathy I believe is worthy of deep reflection. Sympathy is part of the image of God in which Man has been created. Ecclesiastes 3:21 is a subtle reflection of this. As you have hinted, it is manifested fully in those who are in communion with Christ, but nevertheless remains manifest in lesser degrees in all of humanity.

Pathos itself is not bad, but good. It is the deep and intense churning within, from the very bowels. Since the fall into sin, our emotions are corrupted and are connected to the painful circumstances and consequences of sin so that these intense emotions are often experienced as painful. Yet they flow from love and the communion of love that God created from the beginning and with which He continues to reach out to us even now.

Thus, even the painful experience of this love is good. The pathos/pascha of Christ restores the proper perspective for us. In His pathos we are brought back into the awareness of the why, the why that led Him to take our pathos in exchange for His. In our pathos darkness and gloom and pain are the perspectives. In His pathos light and hope and peace are the perspectives.

God grant you and yours His peace that surpasses all understanding and guards hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Fritz,

It's been a while since I visited your blog. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. May the Lord Jesus comfort your son, you and Carol, and the whole family. Christos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!