Paul Henry Carr
Why on the morning I was to attend my mother-in-law’s funeral did I wake up singing the Bach Cantata, "One sings with joy from the victory?" ("Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg" No. 149.) My wife, Karin, could not come with me to her Mother’s funeral, as she was in Mass General Hospital suffering from leukemia. She died three weeks later on 15 May 1986 at age 46. I wished that she could have sung my favorite solo "I Know that my Redeemer Liveth." At the funeral, I did speak for my wife and added my own personal tribute. My mother-in-law, Liselotte Lachmann Hansen, was such a wonderful influence on my life that I never could relate to those mother-in-law jokes.
I still wonder about "singing with joy from the victory." Yet, when I was in the depths of despair over my beloved wife’s death, I found solace in listening to a tape of this Bach Cantata that I had recorded from WGBH (89.7 MHz.) I also found ontological (not existential) hope and consolation in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:2: "For the law the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." Jesus gives us ultimate victory over the power of death even though the death of a loved one is not easy, to say the least.
The cross as a symbol of the victory over death was very real to me when I visited the ruins of the coliseum in Rome, where so many Christians were killed. In the place where the Roman Emperor may have sat, now stands a large, black metal cross. In the Fourth Century, Emperor Constantine as he leading his army into battle had a vision of the cross with the words "in this sign conquer". After he won, he accepted Christianity, which then became the state religion.
Theologian Paul Tillich states that Christianity is more than a religion: it is the experience of a New Creation and New Being. The New Being can be spoken of as REconciliation, REnewal, and REsurrection. As a physicist I have problem with the revival of dead bodies. I am nevertheless thankful for my experience of the hope that Jesus’ ultimate victory over death gave me at the time of my deepest despair. "Resurrection is not an event that might happen in some remote future, but is the power of the New Being to create life out of death, here and now, today and tomorrow." (Tillich "The New Being")