After a certain age, the memory of death becomes a companion for life. It is impossible to tell a young man going off to the wars about the memory of death. It is impossible to explain to a young bride the vanity of life. After a certain age, however, the man, now a veteran of many wars, knows that one day he will die. The woman, by now the mother of a number of children, knows that she is growing old.
At that time the memory of death comes into play. It is not the same as repentance. However, once a person has recognized that the greater part of his life is behind him, then unless he blocks that recognition by giving himself over to his passions, in some cases also alcohol and drugs (some legal perhaps, some illegal), repentance is a natural consequence of the memory of death.
Of course, if you have a chronic illness, then the words are written on the wall with much greater clarity.
And if one day the doctor says to you, “I’m sorry …” then it’s a matter of calling the priest.
The memory of death is not morbid. It is a spiritual charism that allows the person the moral certainty that there is ‘no exit’ to his life: only the grave is the final resting place of the tired tabernacle.
The memory of death is not depression: it is the serene realization that we are destined first for the dread judgement seat of Christ and then for eternal life according to our works. In the face of such a prospect the sincere Christian will realize that the only thing is to cultivate repentance.
The memory of death is not anti-Christian: it is the Christian united to God who realizes that like the hair on his head his days are numbered, that as the Psalmist puts it his days are as the ‘herb of the field’.
But it is only after a certain age that God grants this realization to the monk or to the layman.
Best wishes for Great Lent