Today I am thinking about compassion and victory in death. Not just because winter is here or as I look out of this coffee shop I see grey skies, naked and skeletal trees, silver coffee tables patronized by pools of water, and people huddling along in their coats as they brace against the chill and constant drizzle.
Death is on the brain because of a book review, a funeral service and Remembrance Day.
Well the review of the funerary monograph is almost finished! It is Kathleen Corley’s (2010) Maranatha: Women’s Funerary Rituals and Christian Origins. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Her thesis is:
The practices of the Greco-Roman world of funeral activities, meals, and associations is the best context for understanding Christian origins. Women were the primary actors in providing funerary services and banquets to create community between the living and the deceased. She then extends this role and the centrality of these rituals to early Christianity submitting that memorial meals for Jesus, the passion narrative and even the ‘notion’ that Jesus was raised and appeared were in fact generated by the practices of women who led in these areas.
One side point which caused a chuckle as I thought of retired Professor John’s funeral last weekend is the BAWDYness of Christian banquets at cemeteries. Efforts to squelch the bawdy Christian banquets continued as late as the fifth century. Corley claims that Augustine wanted funerary meals relocated to the quietness of the church. Hence the Eucharist which she sees really as certain kind of funeral meal.
Mourners, clergy and choir processed to the hearse to bid farewell to Prof. John’s body. Quite solemnly we echoed ‘May the souls of the dearly departed …. Amen‘. Then one of the two women priests remarked ‘I need a smoke and a drink! I wasn’t John’s friend for nothing!’. ‘Well done’ everyone chuckled while making their way to the buffet and open bar as John’s remains journeyed on to the crematorium in the next town.
More on Remembrance Day next week.