A happy face in church this evening announced that it was the school holidays; it was his birthday tomorrow, but, more importantly, he could spend the day on the farm with his father and would spend not one minute of it in a classroom. The earliness of Easter not only meant that his birthday fell in the school holidays, it also meant that the holidays had been reached without there being time to cover all of the story prior to the events in Jerusalem.
One pupil in a former school specialized in difficult questions.
‘Would Judas have been allowed to be buried?’
‘He was buried. That’s what we just read. They bought the Potter’s Field.’
‘Yes, but if he had died and the church had to bury him; would they let him be buried?’
‘Oh, I understand now. No. They wouldn’t let suicides be buried in consecrated ground’.
‘I don’t know why not’.
‘Maybe they thought they were sinners’.
“Maybe, but aren’t we all?”
‘Do they allow it now?’
‘Yes, but only for a the last century or so’.
Why were suicides barred from Christian burial? I could not remember.
The inquirer would have gone home from the class with another to add to his list of unanswered questions.
There had been a temptation to answer that whether you were buried depended on your social standing. Images of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet came to mind. The two gravediggers, cast as clowns, discuss the funeral rites for Ophelia, who has drowned herself
Is she to be buried in Christian burial that
wilfully seeks her own salvation?
I tell thee she is: and therefore make her grave
straight: the crowner hath sat on her, and finds it
How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her
Why, ’tis found so.
It must be ‘se offendendo;’ it cannot be else. For
here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly,
it argues an act: and an act hath three branches: it
is, to act, to do, to perform: argal, she drowned
Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,–
Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here
stands the man; good; if the man go to this water,
and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he
goes,–mark you that; but if the water come to him
and drown him, he drowns not himself: argal, he
that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life.
But is this law?
Ay, marry, is’t; crowner’s quest law.
Will you ha’ the truth on’t? If this had not been
a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o’
Reaching Easter holidays without difficult questions is more comfortable than having to face the centuries long duplicity of the church.