Bede's Death Song
Fore there neidfaerae naenig uuiurthit
thoncsnotturra than him tharf sie
to ymbhycggannae aer his hiniongae
huaet his gastae godaes aeththa yflaes
aefter deothdaege doemid uueorthae.
Before the unavoidable journey there, no one becomes
wiser in thought than him who, by need,
ponders, before his going hence,
what good and evil within his soul,
after his day of death, will be judged.
-the Venerable Bede
In my own meditations and prayers for the pope, I got to thinking about Bede, a monastic scholar who provided us with some of the best documentation of Anglo Saxon history, a new edition of the Bible, and a translation into vernacular of the Gospel of St John. He also had his share of controversy, and I'm willing to bet did not fear it so much, though, back then the stakes were pretty high for those who opposed the Church. I see parallels to John Paul II who, as a young man, understood the importance of language and culture in his participation in underground theater devoted to banned Polish works under first the Nazis and then the Soviets. I also note his "speaking truth to power" in his returning to Communist Poland to say mass, as well as his longtime stance of inclusion/respect/embrasure of all members of society that embodies the "culture of life."
I had asked Pablo last night if he thought that the Pope may fear death. He answered that he thought that John Paul II had powerful faith, which gives many people great strength, both in living and dying. In that he's human, though, it would be natural to have some fear of the transition to the unknown.
Cuthbert, a student of Bede and reknowned wordsmith himself, recounted Bedes description of death: a very straightforward combination of worry about the unknown and hope in the unseen. A last accounting of one's good deeds vs one's sins, and the hope that they do balance out in the end.
I guess I find the matter of factness of Bede's account and the fashion in which Pope is choosing to die to be comforting somehow. Perhaps it is the humanity of their transcendency that is resonating with me so right now.