Monday, January 26, 2009

Uncertainty or good manners ?

Norm takes this remark, by the (female) vicar officiating at John Mortimer's funeral, as signifying uncertainty :

"Sir John called himself an atheist for Christ," the vicar said. "He always came to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. But he emphatically did not believe in life after death. My hope," she added, "is that he has had a wonderful surprise."

What, you mean she isn't sure ?

Given that she was a female CoE vicar, Norm may not be too far from the truth. But there's always another possibility. Maybe she was just being polite. After all, to have added 'but my fear is that he's had a nasty shock' would have been impolite at the least, no matter what her thoughts. Few are those shepherds of Christ's flock who'll front up a funeral with Isaiah 14:9.

5 comments:

tolkein said...

Ah yes, Matthew Henry. I haven't read my copy for a while - I rather like William O'Neill's commentary myself. I suggested to Norm that the vicar's uncertainty related to whether the surprise for Rumpole was wonderful, not the surprise itself.

MattLondon said...

Tolkien - I'm inclined to agree. I'm sure most devout Christians are too aware of their own shortcomings to think that they could get over the hurdle Christ set on their own merits - but we all hope for ourselves and can only hope for others.

shillingajar said...

I liked the bit about someone reading "So we'll go no more a-roving" at Mortimer's funeral. The late Sir John did a fair amount of that, as I understand: so much so that he apparently didn't always know how many children he actually had.
Still, it's quite possible that with the state the poor old C-of-E is in now that the late "atheist for Christ" could really have been one of its staunchest pillars.
I'm sure the unfortunate Dives was also a champagne socialist.
Sir John MUST have read the famous and unforgettable sermon on Hell in Joyce's "Portait of the Artist...", but maybe he didn't quite get the point.

shillingajar said...

The old Catholic funeral ritual made the possibility - not to mention the likelihood - of final loss fairly strongly.
It's a great shame that liberals like Faure and Durufle tamely left a lot of the original text out of their musical settings: their texts of the Dies Irae are sadly gelded, so unless people are willing to look up a really good translation such as might be found in a pre-Vatican II missal, or to get a score of the Verdi Requiem and learn a little Latin - this bit is really fairly simple fairly simple - they won't begin to understand what poor John might have to confront. What does he now think of those slogans that the Dawkinsites have put on the buses, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

I assumed it meant she had a sense of humour, and also a polite understanding that not everyone in the church to say goodbye to a loved one shared a faith. It is terribly British, don't you think?

Of course, she isn't a fire breathing Irish catholic, like yourself. The CoE claims no authority over the congregation and offers only guidance to the laeity, not leadership by a man that claims to be God's personal envoy.