Life and Death
I just finished reading a book the other day titled "Healing Grace" by David A. Seamands. The book ends with a story that sort of dramatically puts the whole premise of the book into crystal clear perspective.
Life Goes On - 24"x 36" - Oil
Franz-Josef I, Emperor of Austria died in November of 1916. The House of the Hapsburgs had been the ruling power of the Austro-Hungarian Empire since 1273, and its family was a major political force in Europe until the Great War of 1914-1918. The funeral of Franz-Josef I is significant because it was the last of the grandiose imperial funerals.
The Hapsburgs are buried in the family crypt located in the basement of the Capucin Monastery of Vienna. On the day of the funeral, the entire court assembled in full white dress, their hats covered with ostrich plumes. A military band played somber dirges and an anthem by Haydn. The cortege wound its way down stairs illuminated with flaming torches, bearing the coffin draped in the imperial colors, black and gold. Finally it reached the great iron doors of the crypt, behind which stood the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna, along with his entourage of high church officials.
The officer in charge of the procession was the Court Marshall. As he approached the closed door and pounded on it with the hilt of his ceremonial sword, he was following a ceremony prescribed from time immemorial. "Open!" he commanded.
"Who goes there?" intoned the Cardinal.
"We bear the remains of His Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the Grace of God Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Defender of the Faith, Prince of Bohemia-Moravia, Grand Duke of Lombardy, Venezia, Styrgia..." And so on, through the thirty-seven titles of the Emperor.
"We know him not," replied the Cardinal, from beyond the door. "Who goes there?"
"We bear the remains of His Majesty, Franz-Josef I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary" - this very abbreviated form was allowed only in dire emergencies.
"We know him not," came the Cardinal's reply again.
"Who goes there?"
"We bear the body of Franz-Josef, our brother, a sinner like us all!"
Whereupon, the massive doors swung slowly open and Franz-Josef was borne within.
My comments here are not to be critical of the emperor, the Hapsburgs or the unholy alliance of religion and power. My sole intention is to enjoy the profound truth this story illustrates...the truth that... titles, accomplishments, intellect, sincerity of motives, justification of our behavior, generosity, fame, power, popularity, wealth, and a host of other things that we consider qualifies us to enter the gates...none of them amount to a thimble full of worthiness.
Only receiving the healing grace of God, extended to us through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, will open those gates of pearl.
The funeral story led me to a couple of paintings I have done. The first, Life Goes On is about life and death...the pursuit of living and at the same time the inevitable reality of death. What about those in the cemetery? How many entered the heavenly gates because they received the grace of God through faith, and how many died in their worldly pursuits, bringing an armload of self achievement but not allowed entry? The second, Lying Down in Green Pastures is a painting of peace and contentment.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.
It's by grace that anyone is saved...and that through faith. Salvation does not come of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should be able to boast.
"Healing Grace", David A. Seamands - Victor Books, Wheaton, IL 1988