The End of the Day
I was having such an interesting conversation with some of my friends tonight, and the topic of death came up. I wondered if I looked like I was sprouting a second head when I suggested that we all ought to constantly be in remembrance of our own deaths.
Just thought I'd share a wee bit more of where I'm coming from on that score.
In the daily cycle of my life as an Orthodox Christian, I recall death and resurrection every time I go to sleep and then, by God's grace, am granted another day in which to live.
An evening prayer goes like this one by Saint John Damascene:
O Master, Lover of mankind, is this bed to be my coffin, or wilt Thou enlighten my wretched soul with another day? Behold, the coffin lieth before me; behold, death confronteth me. I fear, O Lord, Thy judgement and the endless torments, yet I cease not to do evil. My Lord God, I continually anger Thee, and Thy most pure Mother, and all the Heavenly Hosts, and my holy guardian angel. I know, O Lord, that I am unworthy of Thy love for mankind, bu am worthy of every condemnation and torment. But, O Lord, whether I will it or not, save me. For to save a righteous man is no great thing, and to have mercy on the pure is nothing wonderful, for they are worthy of Thy mercy. But on me, a sinner, show the wonder of Thy mercy; in this reveal Thy love for mankind, lest my weickeness prevail over Thine ineffable goodness and merciful kindness; and order my life as Thou wilt.
Enlighten mine eyes, O Christ God, lest at any time I sleep unto death, lest at any time mine enemy say: I have prevailed against him.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Be my soul's helper, O God, for I pass through the midst of many snares; deliver me out of them, and save me, O Good One, for Thou art the Lover of mankind.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I will say that I pray this occasionally. So far I have not built my prayer rule up to the point of including this regularly, since it comes at the very tail end of compline prayers, but I aim to, and I will. It's like building physical fitness....must build stamina one step at a time. And this is a normal part of the Orthodox evening prayer rule. Others pray better than I do.
And in the morning, for Matins, we pray Psalm 3, among others, which says: "I laid me down to sleep, I arose, for the Lord will help me."
So our sleeping and rising is a daily metaphor for our death and resurrection. A built in reminder.
Just thought I'd share.