| || |
On 16 July 2011, Otto von Habsburg, son of the last Emperor of Austria, was laid to rest with great ceremony in the Imperial vault.
The funerary cortege arrived on foot at the doors of the vault, and the Master of Ceremonies knocked three times.
From within, the Custodian of the vault called out 'Wer begehrt Einlass?' 'Who requests entry?'
The Master of Ceremonies responded, listing all the imperial titles held by the Crown Prince. The impressive list took almost a minute and a half to read out.
'Wir kennen ihn nicht' replied the Custodian. 'We know him not.'
Again, the response: 'We know him not.'
The Master of Ceremonies knocked again. This time, when asked who was there, he replied 'Otto, ein sterblicher, sundiger Mensch.' 'Otto, a mortal, sinful man.'
'So komme sie herein.' 'Let him come in.' And the doors were opened to receive the procession.
It's a reminder that we find God, not from our positions of prestige and status, wealth and power, education and fortune - things gained through accidents of birth and opportunity, things gained from other people - but only when our souls are bared before God in true humility.
St Paul wrote about his worldly and his spiritual credentials. After writing of the hardships he'd endured for the sake of Christ (2 Corinthians 11.22-28), he wrote, 'If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.' Speaking of revelations, again he ascribed the glory to God, and went on to speak of the 'thorn in his flesh' - recognising that the grace of God is sufficient, that God's power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12). Outlining his worldly status to the people of Philippi, he went on to say he regarded such things as 'rubbish', in order to gain Christ and be found in him (Philippians 3.4-11).
If these two people - one, a distinguished Royal; the other, a leading Apostle - acknowledge their simple mortality before God, stripped of the prestigious worldly baubles we all hold dear, how much more should we strive to remember who we are before God: creatures of the dust, and yet loved and redeemed by God's grace.