The Rev’d Matthew D. C. Larsen
Christ Church, New Haven, Conn.
Funeral Homily for Stanley A. Leavy
December 3, 2016
“Martha said to Jesus, ‘I know that my brother will be raised in the resurrection in the last day. Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’”
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I would like to reflect on Stan’s life and death in the context of this space, the liturgical calendar, and our Gospel reading. Stanley passed from this life to the next on the eve of All Saints. A time when the veil between heaven and earth is particularly thin. The first time I heard the name Stan Leavy was from the former rector of Christ Church, David Cobb, when I was brand new to the parish and the priesthood. David said, “Oh, yes, Stan. You will get to know who Stan is.” Then he paused, looked off to side, then looked back at me and said, “Stan, he is truly one of the saints.” And I came to find that David was right about that.
What does that mean that he is truly one of the saints. In Christian theology, we are all called saints. But only in a proleptic sense of we will all one day be made into saints. Similar to how Jesus says that the resurrection on the last day has already begun in him, even though it is not yet fully here.
But some people are noted long before that last day as a saint, already. And Stan was one of those people. Several people have commented, knowing that I would officiate and give the homily, “Oh, here is some info about Stan, since I am sure you didn’t know him, because he was very deaf by the time you would have met him.” And I have appreciated their help.
But you can really know someone without a perfect sense of hearing. Knowing a person is more than knowing facts. This is particularly true of holy people.
Stan as I knew him, always exhibited a holy presence about him. I’ve seen it on rare occasions in people. You can somehow intangibly sense a holiness almost radiating from their presence. I could see it in his words and actions, but I could also see it in his face.
Even at a well-advanced age. His eyes radiated belief, hope, faith, love. One of the greatest joys of my ministry as a priest was, before Stan moved from New Haven, week after week, after everyone else was communed at the altar, to walk down to Stan and offer him the sacrament. In ancient Coptic Christian texts, they would talk about the church building itself as a body, the body of Christ. So we have layers upon layers of ideas about the body. Here we were, each week, within this holy building, bringing the holy body of Christ and offering it a living member of Christ’s body, receiving with such faith and sincerity.
So, as far as I am concerned, David Cobb’s estimation, and the estimation of countless others who met him, is right: Stan is one of the saints, and his passing on the eve of All Saints is fitting.
Stan’s funeral, however, is happening in Advent, which is also fitting. Stan had many conversations with Lauren and I in which he looked over his life and reflected on held it all together. For him, it was the sacramental presence of God. It was the jubilant idea that earth and heaven, divinity and humanity were not far. In Advent, we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation: the moment when God became human so that humanity (and all creation) might become divine.
Stan often said that what kept him moving was a profound sense of wonder about the world. I believe that wonder was fueled the Incarnation and sacramental idea that in Christ heaven and earth were united. That things that others might view as mundane become both beautiful and intriguing as well as tremendous and aw-ful (in the true sense of the terms).
But Advent is also about waiting. In our Gospel reading, Martha exists in a liminal space between Jesus’s claim to be the resurrection and the actual resurrection of bodies, not least Lazarus’s (as well as Jesus’s). Stan was a person full of godly hope. The resurrection is a statement of profound hope. The hope that God takes what decays, what passes away, what falls apart, and rightwises all that is wrong and broken in the world. God does not abandon us. God has come among us and breathes life into dead bones.
Stan told me many times how he longed to be with his beloved Margaret. Now he is. Soon we will place his body in Grove Street Cemetery, where it says about the entrance “The Dead Shall Be Raised!”
Stan is together with his Margaret, awaiting the great last day of resurrection. He is at rest. And now we find ourselves in the place of Martha and Mary in our Gospel story. In the liminal space, as Stan was, we must now practice hope, practice, wonder, and practice seeing the world as a place brimming with the presence of God.