When Christ’s bloodied and battered body was taken down from the cross, his followers took great care of it: they wrapped it in linen and spices according to the custom of the time, and placed it in a new tomb.
So in Jesus’ day, looking after the dead body of someone you loved was a very hands-on affair. Why is it, then, that Christians - at least in Britain – are now so squeamish about it? Why do we prefer to leave the job to funeral directors and at best view the body after it’s been made to look as life-like as possible?
In this Holy Week and Easter podcast, Mark Dowd goes out to find some answers.
He witnesses a body being prepared for burial and talks to those for whom this is all in a day’s work. He hears from the Rev Sandra Millar, who has accompanied many grieving families. And he talks to Irish writer Kevin Toolis about his father’s death on a small island off the coast or Ireland, where the culture of honouring a loved one’s body is unflinching and helps those left behind face their own mortality.
Ultimately, Mark asks, is taking care of a loved one’s dead body a help or a hindrance in grappling with the key message of Easter, the hope of resurrection?
We’ve ended up in the grip of the Western death machine.