Louis XIV of France, or Louis the Great, or the Sun King, was among the most powerful kings in European history. Louis XIV reigned 72 years, longer that any other European monarch. With his glorious head of hair, he presided over the most magnificent, extravagant court in all Europe, and planned his own funeral to be just as spectacular.
The King instructed his court chaplain, Jean-Baptiste Massillon, that upon his death he was to lie in state in a golden coffin at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. At his funeral service the entire cathedral was to be completely dark, lit dimly by only a single candle positioned above the coffin. Louis the Great wanted to be held in awe by all in attendance and the candle was to remind them of his singular greatness.
When Louis died, Massillon did exactly as the King had instructed. At the funeral thousands waited in silence as they peered at the elegant casket that held the mortal remains of their monarch, illuminated by the single flickering candle.
Massillon rose to eulogize the king. But before he spoke, Massillon reached out and snuffed out the candle representing the late king’s greatness. Then in the darkness of Notre Dame he proclaimed to all, “Only God is Great.” His words rang out like thunder, an astonishing reminder to those in attendance of the proper place of the late king.
Massillon’s words remain as a necessary reminder to those of us today who idolize celebrities and politicians and powerful persons and the uber-wealthy and all whom our society considers “great.” Remember – Only God is Great.