Offices of the Dead.
Then I too will pass, from bed to floor,
gripped by the scourging angel,
from floor to shroud, from shroud to bier,
and from bier to chapel, and then to grave.
The circle and the grave will close up,
but the pestilence will rage on.
Consecration, harried by Great Death.
These obsequies, given to the dead,
these rites, defined by the living,
these profound festivals of the church,
this sacral medieval rhythm.
enshrouded by the women,
swaddling the new born.
in direct imitation
of Mary Magdalene,
and the Jesus body,
taken from the cross.
Finished with mortality.
To be prepared for rebirth,
into glorious and eternal life.
And the litany of the Office of the Dead,
ritually sung by monks,
for the dead in dead of night.
Flanked by torchbearers,
through the shadow-flicker streets,
bier carried silently to church.
Down the dark and empty nave,
lit by dimly burning chancel light,
across the threshold,
under Passion statuary,
the holy sanctum, denied to man in life.
The corpse rests here on steps,
before the altar,
at the foot of the eternal bridge,
illuminated by the lamps of pyx.
Prayers, in dirging monotone, in dark.
For the world, while the world sleeps.
And as the sun begins to rise,
Lauds, in glorious Gregorian chant,
to proclaim the day
and the supplication that it needs.
Now the Paschal candle again is lit,
once in baptism, once in death,
as acolytes with tallow tapers
indulge in the liturgy of Dies Irae,
the most powerful and beautiful of Mass.
To bring the absolution,
so the spirit will quietly pass.
And so to the graveside,
to sanctify the completion of life.
and to wait, in silence,
until summoned by the seven trumpets.
Lowered face up,
feet east, head west.
So the corpse will rise,
on judgement day,
with all the consecrations known to man,
to face the New Jerusalem.
But for now, in rest,
returned to where humanity had been born.
Back to the very dust
from which Adam had been formed.
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