The Rector's Weekly Column

Rev. Victor H. Morgan


         I write this column one day into my annual study holiday in England. Today I travelled to Canterbury where I re-visited the cathedral which serves as a focal point of unity for Anglican Christians around the world.

         Founded in 597 and rebuilt many times, the church contains the tombs of a number of famous people, include not a few Archbishops of Canterbury.

         My favourite is the extravagant and colourful tomb of Archbishop Henry Chichele (c. 1364 April 12, 1443). It has a carved stone bunk-bed arrangement. On the top level, Chichele is laid out in all his ecclesiastic finery, including a mitre on his head. On the lower level, a truer picture emerges. His corpse, beginning to decompose, is lying naked in the grave.

         Cadaver tombs, as they are called, serve as graphic reminders of the brevity of human life and folly of worldly pomp. We may rise to high office, dress in the best clothes and have the adulation of men, but, all will come to an end. In the words of Scripture: "It is appointed unto men once to die."

         As grim as these tombs may seem, they serve a positive purpose. They are intended to wake up the living and stir them into action. The psalmist put it this way: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

         But what might the wisdom spoken of in this verse look like? Two thoughts come to my mind.

         First, a wise person takes care of matters of eternity sooner rather than later. "Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart," says Psalm 95.

         God in Christ offers free pardon for the mistakes of the past, help for the present and the promise of life in the world to come. The gift, however, needs to be received, and it needs to be received now. The person who applies his heart unto wisdom doesn't wait. He says, "O Lamb of God, I come, I come."

         Secondly, having been graciously accepted into God's family, the wise person does not wait for a convenient time to begin serving his Lord. Rather, he sees himself as a man on a mission and treats each day as a gift and possibly his last.

         Being dead and on display, old Henry Chichele has much to teach those who have eyes to see and wisdom to follow. May we be counted among the wise.

         O God, the strength of all who put their trust in thee, mercifully accept our prayers; and because of the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping of thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Rev. Victor H. Morgan is rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Blue Ridge.

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