“Everything is diverted from its proper course”

“In the past men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an aging world. The young no longer want to study anything, learning is in decline, the whole world walks on its head, blind men lead others equally blind and cause them to plunge into the abyss, birds leave the nest before they can fly, the jackass plays the lyre, oxen dance. Mary no longer loves the contemplative life and Martha no longer loves the active life, Leah is sterile, Rachel has a carnal eye, Cato visits brothels. Everything is diverted from its proper course. In those days, thank God, I acquired from my master the desire to learn and a sense of the straight way, which remains even when the path is tortuous.”

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

As concise a summary of the modern dilemma as you could want, straight from the lips of medieval monk.

A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains for ever.  The sun rises and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south,
and goes round to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again. All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already,
in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to happen
among those who come after.

Ecclesiastes

 

Cardinal Nichols Presides Over Reburial of Richard III

The remains of King Richard III, found under a parking lot 530 years after his death at Bosworth Field, were reburied in Leicester Cathedral yesterday. The Catholic archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, led the ceremony, which featured prayers, readings, plainsong, and a homily.

The Cardinal celebrated a separate funeral mass at Holy Cross Church in Wellington Street, Leicester.

The reburial closes the book on a dramatic three years that witnessed the rediscovery of the king’s remains under a parking lot where Greyfriars Church once stood before being destroyed during the Reformation.

Cardinal Nichols’ homily can be read here. An excerpt:

At the sprinkling of his coffin, the prayer expressed our faith that the baptised are joined to the death of Jesus so that ‘through his merits, who died and rose again for us’ we may ‘pass to our joyful resurrection’, the destiny of all who open their hearts and lives to the living God.

This faith was also vividly expressed in the incensing of the coffin of the King. Traditionally, words accompany incensing: ‘Let our prayer arise before you O Lord, like this incense’. So too we trust that even as the incense rose before our eyes this evening, so too our prayer will be carried to the throne of God. Indeed, incense signals to us the presence of God. It is a sign of his majesty. We pray that, being brought into the presence of that Divine majesty, Richard may be embraced by God’s merciful love, there to await the final resurrection of all things in the fullness of time.

This is the horizon against which our actions take place on this solemn evening. With God there is a different timescale, a day is like a thousand years. So our prayers for this King of our Land, our prayers for his eternal rest, are not impeded or made invalid by the passing of these years. We pray for him today just as those who prayed for him at the time of his death in 1485, those whose hearts were not filled with the vengeance of victory or the hatred of an enemy. Among those who prayed for him then was the community of Franciscan Friars, so nearby here, who surely buried him with formal prayer even if also in haste.

So much that has happened in these intervening centuries. In 1538 stone and building materials were taken from that Church of the Greyfriars and used to repair the nearby St Martin’s Church, now this Cathedral Church of Leicester. It is surely symbolic that materials from the first burial place of the King are in all probability still part of the fabric of this building in which his remains are again to be laid to rest. Our Christian histories have become intertwined in a way, we pray, that will now lead to us give a more coherent and united witness to the truths of faith which we proclaim together this evening.