The Miserrimus Headstone

The ironic thing about the Worcester Cathedral is that people who tour the famous site are always most interested in one sad, little-unnamed grave that lies among the tombs of kings and princes and other great and noble persons.

It's remarkable really: the curator will try to steer the group toward these other, more glorious sites. There's the 13th Century tomb of King John, for example; and the tomb of Prince Arthur—brother of King Henry VIII. There are dukes and barons, authors, composers, ministers of state—you name it!—all resting there; there's even a 1225 copy of the Magna Carta under glass! 

"Yes, yes. That's all very nice, but where is that sad little-unnamed grave?" That's what everyone seems anxious to see!

It's the humblest thing: no name, no date, no symbols of any kind. In fact, it looks like just one of the slabs in the corridor floor. Except for one word carved on the stone: "Miserrimus", which is Latin for "most miserable".   

For centuries now, people have been wondering—and speculating!—about who might be under that sad little stone. And why that, of all things, has been written upon it! He was, after all, resting among kings and princes and wealthy aristocrats! 

William Wordsworth wrote one of his most beautiful poems about the Miserrimus headstone, asking the same question. It's one of my favorites—with a wonderful Christian message, by the way.

In starkest contrast to that, over in Rome, archaeologists have uncovered another unnamed grave. Down among the catacombs, those stifling, gloomy underground chambers, where Christians lived and died in utter poverty; where they hid for their lives—all their lives!—from the terrible persecutions of the Romans, you will find hundreds of graves, most of them unnamed; often marked by only a fish or a cross.

But one of those little-unnamed graves has a word carved on it. Again, it's a Latin word, but this time:  Felicissimus: "most happy"

Isn't it amazing? And not a king or a prince or a nobleman in sight!

A Christian's joy is an unusual thing, isn't it? Hounded, persecuted, reviled and rejected and still: "most happy"? Really?

The world, of course, just doesn't "get" the Christian's joy. But the unbeliever's misery is pretty odd too, if you think about it: fame, fortune, success, prestige: none of it keeps them from being "most miserable". 

The sour old Pharisees once criticized Jesus for His "joy", remember? They hated the way He enjoyed life with His disciples: "Why don't you fast, like the other religions," they asked. "What's with all this happiness stuff?" (That's the RAS version of Luke 5:33). 

I love Jesus' answer: 

"Should the guests at the wedding really fast and be miserable, while the bridegroom is right there with them?" Lk 5: 34

No, people who don't "get" the Christian's joy, won't "get" anything else of God's Truth. Don't be so surprised!   

Someone once criticized Franz Josef Haydn's music for being "too cheerful".  Can you imagine? Well, they had just recently left the days of the Gregorian Chants, you know. Cheerfulness was not yet in vogue; it was probably seen as "irreverent" and "unspiritual". Haydn answered his critics well too: 

"When I think about God and what He has done for me, my heart is so full of joy that the music literally leaps from my pen, and since God has given me a cheerful heart, you must pardon me if I serve Him with a cheerful spirit." 

God bless you, dear Joe! And don't ask for "pardon" either. 

Listen, dear ones: the Bridegroom is away! We await His return, and we still will not fast and mourn and be miserable! Your life is a "Good News" that the bad news can't touch! Your message is "Joy unspeakable and full of glory". (1 Pet 1:8)  Let no one rob you of that joy, dear faithful one! 

Oh, the world will not "get" it. They'll keep scratching their heads, but maybe some of them will scratch deep enough to wake something up!

Love worshipping with you each week! 


See you Sunday                             RAS

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