This time of year always has me in a writing mood (whether I get time to or not is entirely another story). Nonetheless, there’s something about the Fall months that seems to usher in a desire for pondering. Perhaps you’ve felt it too?
Living in Florida, we don’t see the seasons change that drastically but its rather interesting to watch how quickly the Fall decor, pumpkins, barrels of hay, and not-so-scarry scare-crows fly off the shelves. Perhaps we’re over-compensating for our lack of Mother Nature’s dressing. The beautiful gold and amber hues begin to transform our usually beachy homes and scents of pumpkin, spice, and cider begin to waft through the usually salty air. In our home, even the scented chrism candles we usually keep lit all-year round seem to transform into their proper place with their nutty, balsam fir reminder of the advent ahead. With the Fall everything seems to come together around a central point. Transformation is imminent, Death is inevitable.
The ancient Romans had a saying: Memento Mori. It literally means remember that you must die. It seems a fitting saying to recall during the Fall, when the leaves are literally boasting of the beauty of death with their changing leaves that capture every phase. With every last exhalation their colors becoming more vibrant until finally they fall and winter encloses them in an icy tomb.
In our home, this Season of Death always begins for us with the remembrance of an ancient feast that beckons us to memento mori. The Triduum of All Hallows, All Saints, and All Souls Days invites us to enter into the pondering of our immortality in the hope of new life after death. For the Faithful, it is a feast which culminates in joy, not fear. Ironically so, having led the soul through the frightful ponderings of Hell on All Hallows Eve when the world and much of the ignorantly discipled in all confusion celebrate with much maddness and incredulity a perversion now called Halloween, such a soul finds itself surrounded by the hope of glory in the reality of the Saints we celebrate on All Saints Day November 1st and by the meekness of poor souls enduring their purgation on All Souls Day November 2nd. If you look closely at the machinations presented of the devils on such a worldly night one sees only the desperate nature of the foolhearty and the ignorant. Tricks and treats and impish scares that make your bloodpressure rise briefly are little more impressionable on a soul fit for immortality than a child dressed as a fairy becomes part of a fairytale. Belief is the engine which fuels desire. Imagination the spark.
The real mock of the devil is Christian hypocrisy.
It’s been said the greatest challenge to effective evangelism of Christ is the lack of sincere Christians. The hypocrisy of brotherly love is nowhere more apparent than during the Fall season, when well-meaning ignorance pits Christians against each other over how to celebrate October 31st. The world watches in bewilderment as accusations, curses, gossip and all forms of witchcraft usher forth from the mouth of the church paralyzing the single-greatest evangilistic moment of the year apart from Easter Sunday. To this end I say, memento mori.
Memento mori because when you do, you’ll see the Fall in all its beauty, you’ll see life and death in everything; and you won’t be afraid to believe.
Believe in the mortality of your days and immortality of life in Christ.
Believe that the Spirit inside you is greater than the spirit in the world.
Believe that you can walk in darkness as a child of Light.
Believe that with the power of this Spirit alive in you that you alone are enough to transform the world around you.
When we embrace the Truth, we are saying we believe it with all our heart, all our body, all our soul. In effect, we live it out, we live what we believe. We live the Truth.
Much like the triduum of this season, this triduum of belief is just the beginning of our journey. Memento mori is to be lived, not merely accepted, in the body, mind, and soul. We’re not to mourn death but to celebrate it. We’re not called to hide away but to be the Light on the hill beckoning others to memento mori that they might know it too.
Every day I spend at home raising up our children, I have the privilege to think of what it is to die. It humbles me to remember what a blessing it is to truly live. No one comes to this truth “without first touching the darkness,” if I may borrow the phrase from Sir Tolkien who was quite possibly the greatest literary evangelist of the last century and one who knew profoundly the depths of memento mori.
Yes, these days are full of memento mori. Especially the way the world is now. And yet, this is our finest hour. If the darkness is greatest just before the dawn, how much better it is to see in it the faintest chrism light! We needn’t be afraid of the witching hour nor the howling moon but rather by the power of belief, which we professed and we received at our baptism, make known to others the Spirit which reigns inside us. We needn’t be afraid of the spirit of the world getting in our children if we’ve properly formed them to carry the Holy Spirit inside them, a literal living flame of love. The only spirit that lives in this house is the Holy Spirit! And we ain’t afraid of no ghosts!
The world needs an encounter with Truth. From October to April, the Church celebrates our journey from death into life. From the reality of hell with all its horrors thru the advent of the world’s greatest gift to the power of Christ’s death and resurrection, from Hallow-tide to Easter-tide, these next six months beckon each of us to memento mori. Will you be a light in the darkness? Will you bring that encounter?
The Church is not wanting in forms of evangelism. Her feasts, sacramentals, and traditions are enough to fill a lifetime of tracts, invitations, altar calls, and even candy bowls, indeed, enough to evangelize the entire world. What the Church needs now are true disciples willing to live out what they profess to believe. The world is watching. How will you welcome life after death? Memento mori. Evangelizare Iesum Christum. Live prepared for the encounters of a different kind. Be not afraid to be a great saint.