Memento mori. Remember death.
Momento mori is an ancient axiom that perhaps dates to pre-Christian Rome. It was adopted by Christians as early as the first century and has even been used as a greeting in monastic communities. It’s translation may be startling: Remember Death.
It’s not the usual way we would say, “Hello.”, or “Good morning.”, Is it? Yet, as Christians we should be mindful constantly that this life is passing, and the age to come, eternal. Last week, this week, and for several weeks to come this theme is found in the Gospel readings. Jesus reminds us to be vigilant, for none of us know when our earthly pilgrimage will end, that moment when the sun sets on this life and we are embraced by whom St. Francis of Assisi metaphorically identified as “our sister, Death.” As the Knights of Columbus say, “Tempus fugit, momento mori.” “Time flies, remember death.”
Our remembrance of death is not used as an excuse to not care about our lives here on earth, but rather to remind us that what we do here on earth has eternal consequence. For those of us who hope in the Lord, and live in his grace, death is the welcome rest of a long journey. As St. Francis concluded in his Canticle of the Sun:
“Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.”
In short, our mortality reminds us to live every moment as if it were our last, to not put off our relationship with the Lord, to not neglect to love our neighbor, and not forget our relationships with loved ones. Tim McGraw once sang a song about a man faced with his own imminent death who gave advice to a younger man:
“I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying
And he said
Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it.”
Jesus, like Tim McGraw, invites us to live like we’re dying. Live life to the fullest! Momento Mori