Thursday, July 20, 2006

Memento Mori

Death is the horizon against which we live our lives. Whenever we look out over our future, we see this horizon and quickly focus on that which is nearer. For many life consists in not much more than avoiding this reality. But faith invites us live and engage this mystery. Having completed my fortieth year last Fall, I have become more acutely aware of how quickly time passes. Therefore, I have become more concerned about I spend my time. Currently, I am trying to be less busy so that I am more free to live my priorities. My single biggest stumbling block to this is my ministry, which I do in addition to my regular job and raising a family. These priorities were made all the more clear this morning when I learned at 7:09 am that my maternal grandmother had passed away at the age of 90. While I was typing this I received another phone call informing me that one of my brother deacons passed away this morning as well.

I remember as a young man in my mid-teens wishing life would hurry up and happen. As a man in middle age I sometimes have the desparate desire to slow life down. The ancient hymn Dies Irae is a sobering, yet hopeful reminder of what is important.

Dies Irae
1 Day of wrath and terror looming!Heaven and earth to ash consuming, David's word and Sibyl's truth foredooming!
2 What horror must invade the mind, when the approaching judge shall find, and sift the deeds of all mankind.
3 The trumpet casts a wondrous sound,through the tombs of all around, making them the throne surround.
4 Death is struck and nature quaking, all creation is awaking, to its judge an answer making.
5 The written book shall be brought forth, in which is contained allfrom which the world is to be judged.
6 So when the Judge shall sit, whatever is hidden shall be seen,nothing shall remain unpunished.
7 What am I, wretched one, to say,What protector implore, when (even) a just person will scarcely be confident?
8 King of awesome majesty, you who save gratuitously those to be saved, save me, fount of pity.
9 Remember, gracious Jesus, that I am the cause of your journey; do not let me be lost on that day.
10 Seeking me, you sat exhausted;you redeemed me by undergoing the Cross; let so much toil not be in vain.
11 Just judge of vengeance, grant the gift of forgiveness, before the day of reckoning'.
12 I groan, as one guilty; my face is red with shame; spare, O God, a supplicant.
13 You who forgave Mary, and heard the plea of the thief have given hope to me also.
14 My prayers are unworthy; but you, the Good, show me favour, that I may not be consumed by eternal fire.
15 Grant me a place among the sheep, and separate me from the goats, placing me at your right hand.
16 When the accursed are silenced, sentenced to piercing flames, call me with the blessed.
17 Suppliant and bowing, I beg, heart contrite like ash: Have a care for my end.
18 Tearful that day, on which will rise from ashes guilty man for judgement.
So have mercy, O God, on this man.
19 Compassionate Lord Jesus, grant them rest. Amen.

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