Perhaps you know what the image above shows. It is a Chinese shrine cabinet, once used by a prosperous family to hold the spirit tablets of the ancestors. Today, however, I am considering the use such a thing would have for a Christian family. Obviously, the superstitions of the pagan past do not belong to the pure worship of the luminous faith of Jesus Christ, so rites and cæremonies, and even ornaments, must differ from those which the pagans use.
A cabinet, of course, is meant to be opened. Inside, on the backdrop, I would have written the Beatitudes:
And surrounding these words I would have memorial tablets for the ancestors who had died in the faith, with whose honourable examples we also strove, by the might of Jesus Christ, to live for the righteousness of God. And this whole cabinet would be the reredos to the home altar, and in it we would keep the family Bible.
When the family was worshipping God, we would take the Bible out of the reredos and have it on the table until it was to be read. The ancestors’ memorial tablets would bear witness to the presence of God and the blessed hope of everlasting life. On their death days, we would read their commemorations after the official Collect of the Day. In this way, the Bible of all God’s people would beautify the tablets of the ancestors, and the tablets would serve the word of God. When the Scriptures were read, they would be represented as being in the midst of the living and the dead, in the communion of all the saints in Christ Jesus. When we sang praises to God, and offered prayers in the Name of his Son, we would remember that the ancestors did the same, as well as innumerable angels and all the company of heaven, and we would look toward the life of the world to come.
And if a cleric should come to prepare communion for the sick, it would be on the table standing before this reredos, wherein were written all the names of family’s faithful departed. Death, then, is not a lonesome passage, but an entrance in communion with all those in the family who have gone before into Sheol in the footsteps of our Lord. Into the joy of the saints in everlasting rest will he go, with the ancestors, who trusts in the Lord. The Lord’s body and blood are the last tokens of his faithfulness in death and in life, that those who feed upon the life he has given will surely rise to everlasting life at the Last Day.
All this awaits a family that daily gathers not around entertainment but around piety. The family must seek the wisdom and assistance of the Lord who has saved the ancestors and will save his own who are now living. Salvator mundi, salva nos, qui per crucem et sanguinem redemisti nos: auxiliare nobis, te deprecamur, Deus noster.