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Anchors and the Virtue of Hope in the Cemetery

100_3651I haven't written about symbols in the cemetery in quite some time.  Today, I'm highlighting the anchor.

In addition to the "heavy object attached to a rope or chain used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom" definition for the word anchor, a dictionary offers this:

a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay.

to keep hold or be firmly fixed.

Unless there is an obvious naval or nautical connection, an anchor in the cemetery generally represents hope.  This symbol can be traced back to the Bible and Hebrews 6:19 --

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.

Memory Hill Cemetery

Matthew Henry provided the following commentary on the anchor as a symbol of hope, Biblically speaking:

What use the people of God should make of their hope and comfort, that most refreshing and comfortable hope of eternal blessedness that God has given them…We are in this world as a ship at sea, liable to be tossed up and down, and in danger of being cast away. Our souls are the vessels. The comforts, expectations, graces, and happiness of our souls are the precious cargo with which these vessels are loaded. Heaven is the harbour to which we sail. The temptations, persecutions, and afflictions that we encounter, are the winds and waves that threaten our shipwreck. We have need of an anchor to keep us sure and steady, or we are in continual danger. Gospel hope is our anchor…in our stormy passage through this world…

Hope is also one of the three theological virtues in Christian tradition, the others being Faith and Love (or Charity).  "Hope [is] a combination of the desire for something and expectation of receiving it, the virtue is hoping for Divine union and so eternal happiness." [Wikipedia]

The virtue of hope sculpted in human form can also be found in the cemetery, almost always with an anchor.

Memory Hill Cemetery-001

Top image from Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.
Middle and last image compilations from Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia.
All © 2011 - 16 S. Lincecum.

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The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

So I answered, "O Lord God, You know."

Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!' Thus says the Lord God to these bones: 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live...'" (Ezekiel 37:1-5, NKJV)