The Crypt, pt 1

The crypt is under entirety of cathedral, also cruciform in shape.

Entrance Door

Jesus raising Jairus' daughter

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mightily and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou thinkest thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppies or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke, why swellest thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

--John Donne

How appropriate that the great Cathedrals had their crypts for the interment of the Faithful in what was called the undercroft (under the croft, or under the choir area). Today the term undercroft is more commonly used to refer to a church's basement, but we shall stay with the more ancient cathedral usages.

Cathedral crypt in
Granada, Spain -
remains of
Fernando & Isabela

Crypts are not meant to be gloomy places but rather places where the mortal remains rest while awaiting the return of their departed souls (now in paradise) who, at the return of Christ, shall have their glorious resurrection and glorification. Those who've died are with Christ but we are promised that at the end our souls and bodies will be brought together and we will be like Him (like Christ) in our beauty and blessedness. This is why God the Son took upon Himself our mortal frames, so that He might be the first of many who will arise in glory. Meanwhile, when we die, our souls released from the prisons of our dying bodies are with Christ in paradise.

I was always so fond of three of my dearest churches: West Bend Methodist, Fairview Methodist, and Greensboro Methodist. They were very special places, not only because their people were quite special to me, but each church had its graveyard near to the church building. How wonderfully appropriate to be buried near those sacred places where the Scripture and prayers are heard every Lord's Day. It is my only regret, as I one day depart this world, that I cannot be buried near a church.

In our hearts we have the memories of our departed loved ones. Those inward places where we honor their memories are, I suppose, very much like the crypt of some great Cathedral. We know their mortal remains are interred, but as soul knows soul, we also know that they have left those bodies and are somewhere other than within their own dust. Helen Keller, that great woman who was born deaf and blind, always told us that she was more fortunate than those who were sighted and could hear for death did not deprive her of those souls she had come to love. She knew people as they truly are -- living souls who for life's little day must animate these dying frames of ours. We are souls. Our bodies are but projections of our souls; our clothing for this present life which we must shed when we are called Home by death.

- Crypt at Durham Cathedral where Saint Bede's remains are buried

As surely as there is the choir area over our heads in this Cathedral, that symbol of the Church Expectant, the souls of the faithful are in paradise awaiting the resurrection of their mortal coils. So, we hold our memories and say our prayers of love for the dead because the Church "below" and the Church "above" cannot truly be parted; we are all in Christ. This is why Saint Paul was inspired to write, that if we are "absent from the body" we are at once "present with the Lord". (2 Corinthians 5:8) From the cross, Jesus promised our redeemed souls what He promised the soul of the poor old thief whom He redeemed that day from His cross: "This day you will be with me in Paradise!" (Luke 23:43) The thief died and they buried his body but the thief was now a redeemed soul and he is with Christ and the Church in paradise awaiting that glorious day when the saints (all of the departed souls who love the Lord) will return with Christ and their bodies be raised in glory to become glorious with Christly beauty. (see I Thessalonians 3:13, Christ returns with our souls to raise our bodies unto glorification).

Hear Saint Paul as he writes those Christians of his day who were being cruelly martyred: "Lo, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep [not everybody will have died] but [all of us, the living and the departed] shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall [all of us, both those who've died and those yet alive] shall be changed." (I Corinthians 15: 51-52) And St. John, as an old, old man, having been the only one of the disciples who had providentially escaped martyrdom recalled those splendid souls of the martyred Christians and comforted the ancient churches with these words about the return of Christ with our souls from Paradise to the General Resurrection: "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."

Christ's glorious - - Resurrection

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