ILLUMINATIONS by Anthony Esolen
A Musical Work of Mercy
I'm fond of noting the final corporal work of mercy, to bury the dead. It shows the high regard Christians have for the body, which isn't a husk to be shucked away, but the flesh that our Savior took on and sanctified, and which will be raised again.
Contemporary praise'n'worship songwriters don't often think of funerals and burials. In Catholic churches, the most popular hymn for funerals is the effeminate "On Eagle's Wings,"which transforms the soldierly strength of those who trust in the Lord into the insubstantiality of a puffball borne upon the "breath of dawn," whatever that's supposed to mean. That at least is an attempt at sacred music. But some people request the secular to commemorate their loved one's passing to judgment before God: "Danny Boy,"for instance, or Frank Sinatra's obnoxious "My Way."
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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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