The Marines snap their salutes and bear the flag-draped coffin up the marble steps and we hear the old hymns--"Going Home," "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," "The Navy Hymn": "Oh hear us when we cry to thee / For those in peril on the sea." We don't hear these songs much in modern life, only at formal occasions like this. We lock them in a closet until a state funeral, and then they come out and we realize how much they meant, and how much we miss them.Man, do I miss those hymns. The best of them contain a great theology lesson in verse form.
Ms Noonan ends her essay with a scene from the House of Representatives:
Time moves, life moves, we grow older together. And now a new era begins, and with another great ceremony. As I write, a new Democratic speaker of the House is about to be sworn in. The great hall of the House is full and teeming--members have brought their children in brightly colored dresses and little jackets and ties. Nancy Pelosi in a russet suit and pearls is standing, laughing and holding a grandchild.And this is what America can brag of. Not of her armies, which are the finest and most powerful in history; nor of her navies which sail where they will and defend freedom of the seas for even our sharpest economic rivals; but for the political culture that nurtures and celebrates the peaceful transition of power between parties.
Now a clerk with a high voice is reading, "Therefore the Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is duly elected . . ." and the House has erupted in cheers. She is escorted to the back of the chamber. And now the first woman to lead the House of Representatives is being handed the gavel by John Boehner, the leader of the opposition. He kisses her. She holds it high. And now she speaks. "I accept this gavel in a spirit of partnership . . . for the good of the American people." "In this House", she says, "we may be different parties but we serve one country."
And so again we remind ourselves who we are. We "show an affirming flame." We are a great republic and a great democracy. We are a great nation and a great people. We peacefully--gracefully--pass power from one group to another. And we start this new time on the right foot, with a cheer.