Burial Chant

Where is the crowd and its clamor?
Where is lust for the world?
Where is the ephemeral dream?
All is dust, all ashes, all shadow.

What glory does not fade?
What endures unmingled with grief?
Substance is less than a shadow,
more deluding than a dream.
In a moment, all is struck down.

Now I know wisdom: I am dust and ashes.
I search among the graves, see the bones laid bare.
Which is the king and which his warrior?
Which is the martyr and which his executioner?

What mystery befell us?
We wail and grieve at our beauty
marred in the tomb.
Who surrendered us to this corruption?

We stand over the graves of our lost,
our bodies entwined
by a mysterious wind--
Christ murmuring: trust, trust.

This poem, taken from funeral liturgies used in the Eastern Orthodox church, is a translation of an eighth-century verse by St. John of Damascus. Oresick is from Pittsburgh; a previous Damascus translation of his, "Canon of the Pasch," appeared in the April, 1982 Sojourners.

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