Saturday, September 22, 2007

Death -- ~Fr. Eugenio Escribano

A day will arrive --who will dare to doubt it?-- when I myself shall be the one who is seriously ill, the one past recovery, the one dying, with people around me beginning to worry about preparations for my burial: the laying out, the coffin, the funeral, obituary cards...

Do you think these details are somewhat ludicrous, unworthy of the seriousness of a meditation? Apply them to yourself, and perhaps they will have the effect of plunging you into deep thought. If the thought of death does not impress me or deter me from evil, as the Scriptures promise it will, it is because I think of someone else's death, not my own.

My God, frankly, I have never really given a thought to my own death, I have hardly believed in it, despite the fact that I see the face of death in my daily ministrations and almost feel its icy breath.

When my time comes everything and everywhere around me will echo that "respónsum mortis" of which St. Paul speaks. God forbid that I should be the only one deaf to its challenge!

Let us picture the scene: The priest comes to hear your last confession; the tinkling bell heralds your Viaticum; then follow the Last Anointings, the prayers for the recommendation of the soul, and the low mumblings, drawn faces, and silent tears of relatives and friends standing round your bed --if indeed there is anyone at all to weep your departure!-- Your whole body is in a cold sweat, there is a gradual stiffening of your features, a twitching of your rigid fingers as if trying to clutch at somthing, the cold impression of the crucifix on your livid half-open lips; and the shadows of death crowd upon you thicker and thicker, and your eyes acquire that fixed look as if pursuing sights that vanish from you...

My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who for love of me didst submit to the anguish of dying, do not fail me Thou when everything and everyone else forsakes me!

At long last your soul will quit the body, leaving it a repulsive heap of lifeless matter.

The bells you so often heard toll or had toll for others will now toll for you. The funeral service that you so often [heard] chanted for others is now to be chanted for you. And there will be a burial, your very own; and the officiating priest, while your body sinks into the earth, will seal your disappearance from this world with a last supplication wherein you will lose even your name: Anima ejus et ánimæ ómnium fidélium defunctórum, per misericórdiam Dei requiéscant in pace. Amen.

And then, what will this world have to offer you? What will become of those material goods that you seemed to have fused with your inmost soul, so deeply had you buried them within your heart's affections?

Your name will be struck off all the lists of the living; your benefice, office, money, titles, every one of them will be handed over to another; and people will be quite indifferent and oblivious; they are used to these irrevocable resignations!

Lord, let me not live like the heathen, a slave to death. Allow me to pluck from the Tree of Thy Cross this luscious fruit: joyful confidence and constant readiness in preparation for my death.