On a beautiful Highland day with a sky as clear as a child’s eye we laid Rosie into the ground beside her husband and the sons who had preceded her. A piper led the way from the church door to the grave. The rituals were familiar, part of the family’s experience of faith beyond belief and so did not need to be self-consciously explained. The words and gestures meant more than they literally said. For a few brief moments a space was opened which allowed death and life to intertwine and it was possible if you looked carefully in the clear light to see what lay on the other side.
We think reality has to be articulated and recorded in memory, to be verified later. But when we slip through the links between thoughts, reality becomes a presence, or simply presence. As soon as we think about it or to hold on to it, it dissolves. “He vanished from their sight”. But again as soon as we return to a simple way of being present here and now it returns in a way both gentle and prompt.
To speak of ‘the other side’ at all is to distort it with our own preconceptions. What we see ahead must be already here. In a completely unclouded mind all is present.
Graves are very earthy. They remind us of our humility, our being earthly vessels. However we may decorate them, whatever natural grace or unfortunate aspect they have, this truth remains the great universal equality. It may seem too soon, in this fifth week of Lent, to think about the Resurrection; but that in fact is what Lent is all about – learning, preparing to see and experience the presence of the one who once rose above and beyond the confines of death and rebirth.
Our practice, our meditation, our daily lives lived prayerfully are all ways of purifying the doors of perception to allow the vision of faith to show us what is always present. We cannot face any death in faith, including the death of our resilient ego, without learning something about the Resurrection of Jesus who is one like us.
Laurence Freeman OSB