The Burial of the Holy Ghost

(a metaphor of an occurrence and a nod to Rudolph Otto, Søren Kierkegaard & Martin Buber)

by LJ Frank

There are occurrences in life that are forever etched in the inquisitive mind. One of them for me happened when invited to attend a funeral service of the Holy Ghost on Saturday afternoon, 31 October 1981.

I have little doubt the radical prophet of love, Jesus of Nazareth existed. His mere existence was astonishing. His life was long time coming leaving many open-ended questions. Though, in this case I had reservations about sending flowers to the burial services of a spirit or ghost, specially, the Holy Ghost. Which Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit was the church referring to? The Old or New Testament appearances or what…Jesus’ spirit? The concept is complex. I didn’t have the answer.

Out of philosophical-theological curiosity of the numinous I decided to attend the service. The service was held at a cathedral.

I had experienced as a youth that of any Christian religion, the Roman Catholic funeral ritual was elaborate and abided by the crucial nature of faith without explanation. I also knew from experience that the most devout also had entangled doubts.

In a philosophical rephrasing – theological ambiguity makes for an interesting life. (Martin Luther)

As I entered the cathedral a haunting feminine voice from the mezzanine was singing a Gregorian Chant praising and honoring God. The voice echoed off the vaulted ceiling. Lying in state a meter or so before the steps up to the altar was a wood casket on a raised platform.  People were walking by and touching the lid of the casket with some shedding tears of sadness once they looked down into the open portion of the casket. A few people appeared as if they were about to faint and one person collapsed to the floor.

Finally making my way to the casket after waiting in line I look down at the veiled disfigured face. Someone had placed a transparent pale veil over the tragic face as if to hide its affliction. A chill ran down my spine. Who was this person?

I spoke with a young priest (no longer with the church) who oversaw the service. He explained to me about the person in the casket and observed that all human conscience represents a form of the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit if they but listen to its compassionate voice.

The person in the casket was unknown and homeless with no identification papers. The casket was moved after the service and the person’s remains were buried the following Monday morning. *

*Postscript: The church’s database, shows no descriptive record of such a funeral/burial service.