#95 – Death
At that moment there will be no complaint, no fear or anxiety, because one who has always lived in expectation of the coming of the Lord will not be afraid to open the door to Him at His arrival. He will go to meet Him with great joy, give Him a loving welcome, and with all the ardor of his soul pronounce his last “Ecce venio,” behold, I come (Psalm 39:8).
How many times have I gone through life like Calvin? Procrastinating, hoping for an extenuating circumstance to occur that will delay the inevitable result of my putting off something important. How many days have I slept through without giving a thought to how I’m living my life or preparing for the next one? How often, when all else fails, do I look towards the heavens for God to bail me out?
Too many times to count, really.
While the name of today’s entry is the ominous Death the meditations themselves are, like Lent, a reminder to us that we to be preparing for the next life. We do this through a focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving though we must also keep in mind that these activities are not meant for Lent only. By intensifying our focus on them at this time we are hopefully also examining, or scrutinizing, or lives to see where we have fallen short in the past and resolve to change going forward. Lent is a time of conversion which can be a life-long process.
Although death is the last, it is not the only coming of the Lord in the life of a Christian; it is preceded by many other comings whose special purpose is to prepare us for this last. Death will then be for us in the fullest sense a coming of grace. From the moment of our Baptism until the end of our life, we experience a continual succession of comings or visits from our Lord; each Sacrament we receive, each inspiration, each increase of grace is a divine visit to the soul, by means of which God always possesses it more and more, dwelling in it more fully and intimately. One who has never hesitated to open his heart to all these visits from our Lord, who has always welcomed them faithfully and lovingly, who has followed all the impulses of grace with docility, has nothing to fear from this last coming. Then the words of Jesus will sound sweetly in his ears: “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
During those times when my faith is strong I do not fear death. This isn’t to say I invite it or welcome it. I do value the gift of my life. But death becomes as natural as breathing or walking through my patio door to the wide-open backyard. I used to fear death, though I think I feared the pain that may accompany it. Other times I do not fear it but am annoyed by it. Were I to be killed in a senseless accident or as a victim of a senseless crime I imagine my first impulse would be (pardon my language) to be incredibly pissed off. But the sting of being separated from my loved ones would quickly fade in the knowledge that we’ll reunite one day in the presence of a most glorious eternity.
I hope I accept it death when it comes and try to live my life sacramentally so that I’m prepared. I’d hate to be annoyed when I enter eternity.
The colloquy is from a prayer by St. Francis de Sales:
O Jesus, from this moment I wish to employ all my powers in accepting all the circumstances and pains of my death; from this moment I desire to accept death in the place, hour, and manner in which it may please You to send it. … I well know that if the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it brings forth no fruit; therefore, with all my heart, I accept the annihilation of death in order to become a new man, no longer mortal and corruptible, but immortal and glorious. Amen.
For Lent I’m taking a daily walk through Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen. It is a book of meditations steeped in Carmelite spirituality and has been a favorite of mine for over a decade.