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 a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalene College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire. His many books include Sex in the Unreal City: The Demolition of the Western Mind, Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is a regular contributor to Chronicles, Crisis Magazine, The Claremont Review, Inside the Vatican Things, The Catholic Thing, and American Greatness. He has translated Dante's Divine Comedy. He is a Roman Catholic and lives with his wife in New Hampshire. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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