memento mori.

“There is always the memento mori, the realization that death is contagious; it is contracted the moment we are conceived.” –Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

Tonight the plan is for us to go to the Ash Wednesday service, and as the ashes are put on my forehead, I will be told: Remember your death.

I have been to churches where everything is happy all the time. And I believe in the joy of the Lord, but I also know that Jesus wept with his friends when it was the appropriate time. What I like most about Lent is that the church has set aside a time for us to be sad. We sing in the minor key, and we turn away from bad habits. Lent, like communion, is a time to remember and reflect. We recognize that death is part of life as we journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. We will celebrate the joy of the Resurrection in its own time. But not yet. First we will prepare our hearts.

I am especially glad to be given the gift of Ash Wednesday this week. Not only because I am worn out, but because it was my dad’s birthday on Sunday. When I am told to remember my death, what I will be remembering is his. I will feel the familiar sting in my eyes of missing him, of watching the life pass out of him. People say that the church is not good when it comes to difficult things like death and dying. In some ways that is true, but I think we are better at it when we practice it every year. When we acknowledge that it is a regular part of life.

On Easter Sunday, we will proclaim the message of the Resurrection: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life. But in order to know the Resurrection, we must first remember death.

Memento mori.

“In my church we observe, with considerable discipline, the season known as Lent. After its austerities, the brilliance of Easter will shine with greater joy.” -Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

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