“From all sin, from all error, from all evil;
from the cunning assaults of the devil;
from an unprepared and evil death:
Good Lord, deliver us.”
– petition from the “Great Litany”
Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus,
“Memori Morti” is a Latin phrase meaning, “Remember that you are mortal” or “Remember that you must die.” It is a sobering thought; it is meant to be so. Living in this age of modern medicine and scientific advancement, with entertainment quite literally at our fingertips, we have managed better than most of our ancestors to distance ourselves (at least mentally) from the reality of our mortality.
The Church, countercultural as it is, marks the beginning of Lent with a stark reminder for each of us: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is a quote from Genesis 3:19, words from God to Adam telling him the consequence of his sin. These words are applied to us, the descendants of Adam because “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Perhaps we think we could do without the reminder this year—what, with a global pandemic that has come near to us at last, taking from us people we know and love. Perhaps we would rather skip this day, this liturgical season, and jump straight to Easter, a day of rejoicing. After all, we might say, did not Jesus die for our sin? Is He not risen from the dead? Why go around all sour faced? I get it. We are an “Easter people.”
We are also sinners. Even as we are saved and declared righteous in Christ Jesus, while we draw breath in our bodies, we are sinners; and “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:21). One day, we sinners will die—each and every one of us. The question is, are you ready when that day comes?
Jesus wants us to be ready. He teaches us to pray, on a daily basis, “Deliver us from evil”—the evil around us and the evil (sinner) within us. He would have you think about and prepare now for the day of your death. How can you be prepared?
Pray that you may have true repentance for your sins. Pray that you may rest secure in God’s promises He has given to you, personally, in Word and Sacrament. Pray that you may have faith in Christ’s victory for you and therefore not fear death.
This is a prayer that Jesus has promised to answer. He is our deliverer. He has won the victory and He is coming to save us. For those who are in Christ, joined by baptism to His death and resurrection, the grave is but a gate to eternal life with Him.
It is only that knowledge that comes by faith which enables me to confess that I am but dust and to dust I shall return. It is a sobering thought, but it is not the final one. We remember, too, that God will one day take the dust that is my body and raise it up on the last day to live with Him forever. That hope is not only for me, but for all who long for Jesus’ appearance.
Living with you each day in repentance and with resurrection hope,