Maybe it is just the times in which these words are most often uttered…
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant (Name). Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive (her) into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.
The ancient Greeks spoke of time in terms of kairos as well as chronos. The former is a time of essence, time of real life-changing and memorable substance, not mere seconds or minutes or hours that are registered on a stopwatch. Kairos is something beyond measurable time. It is what the Celtics call “thin” time; a time when the barriers and curtains between what is seen and the Unseen are paper-thin, and we can glimpse the Hereafter with some sense that this universe possesses mystery (Mystery?) that is FAR more than our five little and meager human senses can ever perceive.
Whatever the reason, when this collect is said, usually near the time of death of a loved one, it cuts straight to the soul. It is a commendation for someone departing the here and now for the There and Ever After. It is a most reassuring and loving intercession.
But is it true? Is there in fact a Heaven? Will, one day, I wrap my arms once again around my father and my mother, and say hello to an older brother I never really knew, who at age 10 left me and my sister and a shocked small community that loved him so? And will he be an older brother, or a little boy?
Who in Heaven’s name knows? Who among us — even the most faithful and hopeful — can say with certainty? There have been visions and dreams by others who have returned from near death; journeys within the mind that are hard to describe and harder to explain. Strange and wonderful as they are, they may well be as much our human biological instinct to adapt to stress, as they are any Divine construction of a Loving Creator.
Lord knows it’s what I want to believe. Lord knows…
The LORD — God Almighty, Yahweh, the Great I AM — if real and not a concept of evolving civilization, does indeed KNOW that I so, so, so want beyond all my heart’s desires to truly and deeply believe that this great story is true.
Frederick Buechner, in is his book Telling Secrets, speaks through a fictional character about the promise of Heaven as “A grand thing that ought to be, if it is not.” When my lawyer-self takes over, and I cross-examine EVERY bit of Grace that falls into my lap, I console myself with that character’s conclusion: “And if these be not truths, even then the better part of our nature is surely not a waste…”
On my best days, after I utter such things, I envision a Loving God just smiling and gently shaking His (or Her) head….