“Ave atque vale!” These are the traditional words of valediction at a Roman funeral, and were made famous by Catullus’ poem commemorating the funeral of his brother. They mean, “Hail and farewell!”
The Bible tells us that we too have died and been buried. Our baptism was the funeral service for the old man and the birth-celebration for the new child of God born from above. But we also die on a daily basis. Every day we are called to carry our cross, the instrument of our execution. Every day we are to put the sin nature to death, to re-enact what Christ underwent in His passion.
On the Cross, as His body was dying, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” So it must be with us. We commit our lives to God when we ask Jesus to become our saviour. This is an act of faith: we choose to rely on God to meet our need; we trust in His love and grace.
But God wants to transform the whole person, and this is where our death fits into the picture. We need to say goodbye to the old ways of thinking, the old fears and confidences. We have to let God change every part of us, to shape us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Our insecurities lie in different places, according to the makeup of the individual. One man looks for security in alcohol, another in money, another in political power, and so on. The old man says, “I have a deep need, and this is the only thing that can satisfy it!” The new man says, “Yes I have a need, but nothing on this earth can satisfy it. God alone can fill that hole: apart from Him there is emptiness and sorrow.”
These attitudes are at war with one another: the former looks for solutions in the physical, the temporal, the finite, the imperfect. The latter sees by faith that the answer is found in God, who is spirit, who is eternal, who is infinite, who is perfect.
All we go down to the dust;
and weeping o’er the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Faith sees through the veil of perception. This world of sensations is a world of shadows cast by the true reality of the heavenly dimension. Its pain and pleasure are real; our lives are real; but God is more than this. If we mistake Him for His creation, we become pantheists and fall into logical contradiction.
Non intellego ut credam, sed credo ut intellegam.