19th May

Contemplate Your Death

We brought nothing into the world, and we take nothing out. 1 Timothy 6:7

Remembrance of the dead is given importance in the Sayings of the Desert Christians:

If there are graves in the area where you live, go to them constantly, and meditate on those lying there… And when you hear that a brother or sister is about to leave this world to go to the Lord, go and stay with them in order to contemplate how a soul leaves the body. A truly philosophical work (says an Abba to visiting philosophers) is to meditate constantly on death.

The Desert Christians referred to death as ‘The Great Passage’. Like the Celtic Christians after them, they knew that death was, in some cases, very painful; yet even then, they experienced it fundamentally as a celebration, as the following story illustrates:

The brothers said to Abba Moses (the former brigand): ‘Let us escape since the barbarians are coming’. ‘I’ll stay here’, Moses replied, ‘I have been waiting so long for this day so that the word of my Lord Jesus Christ may be fulfilled: “All those who have used the sword will die by the sword”’. There were seven brothers there. Before any of them could escape, the barbarians arrived and slew them all.
However, a brother who was not with them in that hut hid under some palm fronds and saw everything. He saw seven crowns coming down to rest on the heads of Abba Moses and the six brothers killed with him.

Lord of the Great Passage,
You hold a crown ready in your hand.
If I trust in my own will
I cannot receive it.
I trust in you alone
and I am eager to come to you.