December 15, 2007 William Archibald Irvin, Jr.
Burial Office and Memorial
The traditional prayer and collect for this second week of Advent begins, “Merciful God, who sent thy messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation, give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins.” And then it concludes, “that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our redeemer.” Within the Christian story this theme is something of a bridge between the Old Testament and the New, beginning we might say in the night of Advent, the night of hope, of anticipation, and the dawning of Christmas, the fulfillment of all the long human history of yearning and expectation. What we have all been waiting for. The moment when heaven reaches down and touches earth. “That we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our redeemer.”
We are gathered here this afternoon, family and friends, in a time dedicated to memory and reflection, as we honor and pay tribute to the life of a man of dignity and breadth and generosity and accomplishment. Son, brother, father and grandfather, husband, friend, neighbor, colleague. All kinds of stories to be told, as I know they have been and will continue to be. And here at St. Andrew’s there is a special perspective, as Arch and his brother Ed have been a part of our life here not simply in the affection and support they have shared with us over so many years, but in the way they called us back with such devotion to our shared heritage and past, as they were so careful to continue to honor the memory of earlier generations of Irvins and Niemanns, who were among the great families of this parish long ago, and whose contributions continue in so many ways in their memory and legacy to enrich our lives today.
So a time of memory. And also a time when we are called to share a moment of spiritual comfort. These last years have been marked by loss, a step or two at a time, but there is a finality now, and for Lorna, for his children and step children and grandchildren and this wider circle of family and friends, the memories of today are also windows to a deeper sadness and grief. The shadow that falls over all of our lives, as those who have walked beside us are no longer there to be with us. And how important it is, for an hour or a day, to be there for each other, to speak tenderly in a time of much sadness.
Memory and comfort. But there is more, as the Collect for Second Advent reminds us: “that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our redeemer.” And perhaps not simply the words of this service this afternoon but all the deeper images and symbols of this season reach out to us to share this invitation to a spirit of hope. The reminder of God’s deep essential goodness and care for us. That he would come to be born as a child and to share his life for us, that he would give himself for us to lift us up into his presence. He came to be with us, so that we might be lifted up into his life forever.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you.” Just to let those words speak into our hearts. What Jesus said to his friends. A word for us to remember at this time, as we share our memories, our expressions of sadness and loss, as we offer our care for one another. A word that we can know as true for us as well. As we remember Arch and commend him to the care of his heavenly Father. “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and bring you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Thank you all for sharing this time this afternoon. May Christ’s presence and comfort and blessing be a part of this time for you today, and may he continue to bless and enrich you always.