A Man, Born to Die
Fr Richard John Neuhaus died today, which is something you already know if you read more than half a dozen blogs in the Christian blogosphere. I think 30 or 40 blogs in my RSS feed mentioned his passing today. What I found odd, was that nobody seemed especially joyous over the occasion. After all he succumbed to a second bout with cancer, which typically involves a lot of pain and discomfort. While we are enjoined to celebrate our suffering, that is specifically not to be our attitude toward the suffering of others.
So many of the posts are talk about what his writing meant to various people, how he touched their life, what he did for me. This seems to me getting the hindpart foremost.
St. Ephraim the Syrian wrote many years ago (the entire prayer is reproduced here):
My heart is pained, my soul agonizes and my inner parts are torn! Where am I to find the tears, where am I to find the contrition and the sighs to rightly mourn our orphaned state and the paucity of sanctity among us?
I see, O Master, that Thou takest Thy saints, like choice gold, from the vain world to the resting-place of life.
Like a farmer who sees his fruits well ripened and prudently hastens to gather them that they might no be the least bit spoiled, so dost Thou also, O Savior, gather Thy chosen ones who have labored righteously.
Yet we, who are slothful and weak-willed, remain hardened, and our fruits never ripen, for we have not the resolve to labor without sparing ourselves, in order to ripen in good works and rightly be gathered into the storehouse of life.
Say: woe is me alas, O soul, and weep; for thou hast been left an orphan so young by the blameless fathers and righteous ascetics. Were are are fathers? Where are the saints? Where are the vigilant? Where are the sober? Where are the humble? Where are the meek? Where are those who vow silence? Where are the abstinent? Where are those who with a contrite heart stood before the Lord in perfect prayer, like angels of God? They have left here to join our Holy God with their lamps burning brightly.
Well, I’d offer that perhaps Fr Neuhaus was taken, like choice gold, leaving us behind in this vain world … a sentiment I’ve not seen elsewhere in reflections on his passing.
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