SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI ! That is an old Latin phrase that, loosely translated, says that the glories of this world soon pass away.
The Bible says it in different words. Reading from the first epistle of Peter, chapter 1, verses 24-25:
“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord abides forever.”
In 1989, The Empress Zita, the last empress of the Austrian empire and Queen of Hungary, was buried in Vienna. She had been crowned amid pomp and circumstance in 1916, but she and her emperor husband were exiled in 1918, and the once powerful Austrian Empire was torn apart.
Upon Zita’s death more than 70 years later, a great imperial funeral was held in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Assembled inside that day were leaders from around the world, including a personal representative of Pope John Paul II. The Vienna Choirboys, a full orchestra and a chorus were ready to sing Mozart’s Requiem.
Outside the cathedral, in the plaza, old men wore their uniforms, and when the funeral procession drew near there was spontaneous singing of the Austrian imperial anthem. Pall bearers carried the body of the empress to the closed door of the cathedral and knocked three times. Knock! Knock! Knock!
The warden of the cathedral came to the door, opened it just enough to look out, and in an ancient ritual asked, “Who desires entry?” The head pall bearer answered, “The Empress Zita, Queen of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia. Queen of Jerusalem, Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Krakow,” The warden replied, “I do not know this person.” And he closed the door.
A second time the head pall bearer knocked three times. Knock! Knock! Knock!
The warden came back to the door and opened it just slightly, and asked, “Who desires entry?” The pall bearer again answered, “The Empress Zita, Empress of all Austria and Queen of Hungary,” The warden replied, “I do not know this person.” The door was shut again with a loud bang.
For a third time the head pall bearer knocked. Knock! Knock! Knock!
The warden appeared from behind the partially opened door. Once again he asked, “Who desires entry?” This time the pall bearer answered, “Our sinful, mortal sister, Zita, a child of God.” And with that the doors were opened wide and the glorious music of the funeral began.
Praise my soul the King of Heaven, To His feet thy tribute bring. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, evermore His praises sing.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise the everlasting King.
Frail as summer’s flower we flourish, blows the wind and it is gone, but while mortals rise and perish, God endures unchanging on.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise the high eternal one.
The basic facts in this story are derived from contemporary news accounts.