In a few days people from all over the country will gather at St. George Church in West St. Paul to say goodbye to the Very Rev. John Khoury.
His passing was a shock to us, although we knew his health was sometimes frail, and a double blow to his family and friends who had walked through the passing of his daughter just over two months ago.
It is the lot of Priests to work in obscurity, unless of course something goes wrong. So television will not cover the funeral and only an obituary will mark his life for the public. It is the way of things when a life is given to service. Had he been a mediocre movie star things would have been different but he was a great Priest and he, and we, understand this when we circle the altar.
Yet the parking lot of the church will certainly overflow on to the street for some blocks and the pages of the guest book will burst with names. People will arrive from all over the country and Bishops will preside. Arrive early to the service or you will have to walk a ways and then find yourself unable to sit within the nave.
You see, the true monuments of a faithful Priest are not structures but people. True enough Priests do help parishes build buildings but that is an ongoing thing, one Priest after another because Orthodox buildings are never completed. People are where the heart and soul of a Priest resides, their souls, their welfare, their hopes, their dreams, their moments of tragedy, their times of joy, and we build our lives in to and around them. Sometimes they hate us for it but more often they tolerate it only to see at some future time how precious the gift given was to them.
That is why there will be people at the funeral of Fr. John Khoury. People with stories. People with tears. People who are different now because somehow he touched their lives. Decades of his life poured into others and only now that he is gone do people see the full extent of the gift that was given, a gift made more precious by its new scarcity at his death.
One can only imagine what it must be like for this man who had given his aspirations and work for the cause of Christ to see Him in all His reality, His presence, and His glory. How quickly the thought of this transcends language! To hear our Lord’s “Well done..” and to know that all that vexed and harrassed is now passed never to return again. It tempers our pain and allows us to rejoice through the tears.
And now we, the people who in ways large or small have been blessed by Fr. John, are left behind for a little while with the memory of this Priest blessing us still after his passing. For the sake of it we are called to prayer for his family and for him as well. In a few days vested in the garments of his service and his resuurection we will carry him in procession around the parish one last time and release him, in hope, to the arms of his Redeemer.
Memory eternal Father John, and may angels guide you to your rest!