Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Here today ...

Recently my wife and I rented the movie Flight 93, which depicts the events that occurred on that United jet before it crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Seeing what its passengers went through and how the event affected their families brought back a lot of painful emotions for both of us. When it was over I drove back to the video store to return the DVD. On the way I couldn't help but notice the glow of the evening sun (the days are wonderfully long here in Scotland during the summer -- the sun doesn't even set until 10:30) and I was overcome by a sense of profound thankfulness and urgency. Thankfulness for having my life, and for having time. Urgency because of all the things I want to do with my life, while I still have time.

It was not uncommon for Christian authors in the Middle Ages and the early modern period to use memento mori to remind fellow believers about the brevity of life and the coming of their mortal end. These appeared in the form of pictures and symbols that communicated (from the Latin), "Remember your death." In this day and time we're hesitant to come to grips with the inevitable finale of life, but our forebears were not so sheepish. Even non-conforming Protestants--yes, Puritans!--were known to employ memento mori, as evidenced by the page above from the New England Primer (1727), which was designed to help children and illiterate adults learn their ABCs and other basic facts of life. Sermons and devotional treatises also taught the faithful how to prepare for the grave. Death was everywhere -- and that was a good thing.

If you're paying attention you will notice memento mori all around you, as I did after a night in front of the tube, while driving into town. What do memento mori do for us? Well, if we're teachable, they remind us that we're dust and that we owe God our very lives. They remind us to stop wasting the precious few hours we have on Earth and begin doing the things that need doing. Now. Today. They remind us to focus all our passion and energy, and use all the gifts that God has given us to glorify Him, while there's still time. They remind us to throw off every weight and the sin that so easily entangles, and run! ... run the race.

What are you doing with your life? It will soon be over, my friend. And so will mine. Memento mori ...

4 comments:

Joe said...

Thanks for the challenge...hope the family's doing well.

Ian said...

Thanks for this, very poignant and thoughtful. Much appreciated.

Chris Coleman said...

Thanks for a great post. I needed to be reminded.

Hiraeth said...

I recall seeing a sign in the window of a council office here in Cardiff. It had a skull on it, and the words 'will you travel home with death?'

I praised God for his goodness. When you are a Christian, you see the world in a different way.

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