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Thee, O God, we praise

There is an old chant, whose legend attributes it to Sts. Ambrose and Augustine, that is devoted to the praise of God- hence the title. The Te Deum is primarily a song of praise but has taken up, I think, a new meaning alongside the old. At the death of John Paul II in 2005, many of the faithful in St. Peter's Square began to sing this, giving thanks to God for John Paul II's long life. Now, in May of 2021- Ascension Thursday, to those liturgically inclined- I and many others mourn the loss of a great matriarch who has touched the lives of so many. Nana, as she was affectionately called by her numerous descendants, lived a long and full life.

In a way, Te Deum is a song of celebration and of mourning. There is praise of God for the gift of the life which has so thoroughly enriched our own, and a recognition of God's power and mercy as we commend Nana to God. However, this doesn't "fix" the sadness or the sorrow. I don't think it is meant to- I think it serves as a reminder of God's mercy and that our loved ones are now in the palm of His hand, and that he will care for them in the next life. Ultimately, there are no words I can say that can adequately express the grief and sorrow experienced by the whole Nolan family. It feels as if we have lost the rock that our family was built on, and that all that remains are memories. It is not easy to love God in the midst of suffering and loss, even for a religious person. One may, understandably, come to be angry with God- or perhaps just overwhelmed with grief to the point of complete self-isolation.

Even with this loss, and every loss, there is always hope. By hope, I don't mean the naïve sentiment often expressed in feel-good literature or political slogans. What I, and many other Christians believe, is the Hope of eternal life. It is not an attempt at persuading God; it is commending the souls of the departed to God's love and mercy, trusting in Him, even when it seems impossible. Eschatology, or a study of the "Last Things," is not a particularly precise science. There is, like so much about God, a great deal of mystery regarding what happens after we pass from this life to the next. To delve into the mystery of this, and the sorrow that it entails, is, in a sense, essential to the Christian life. It is a participation in the cross of Christ that transcends time and space.

However, we Christians know that the cross isn't just the end. We know that, after 3 days, Jesus rose from the dead, in doing so defeating death and breaking the bonds of sin. This was essential in the preaching of St. Paul in the early church, and it is also a source of comfort today. Death does not have the last word.

"But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him." (Romans 6:8-9)

St. John, in his gospel, recounts a conversation Jesus has with Martha after the death of her brother, Lazarus.

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die." (John 11: 25-26)

May she rest in the Peace of Christ


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