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Memento Mori

Memento Mori - Remember you must die

A number of months ago, the pastors at our church came up with a series called, “Ever Wonder Why” where they attempted to answer any questions sent to them by the congregation.  Among them, these caught my attention

Why am I not happy? 

Why can’t I let go of past mistakes? 

I am grateful that the pastors tried their best to answer their questions. I pray that the answers received helped and comforted them.

These are questions every sojourner of faith wrestles with.  But when you see the light to the question you’re seeking answers to…what joy and delight you feel!     

But I can empathize when in the midst of searching and wandering, it can feel frustrating when answers given to what we seek are not enough

May I encourage you to look at the phrase:

Memento Mori

The Latin phrase memento mori literally means, “Remember that you must die.” The phrase has its origins in ancient Rome, where slaves accompanying generals on victory parades whispered the words as a reminder of their commander’s mortality, to prevent them from being consumed by hubris (excessive pride and self-confidence).   

Click here for source.

The expression memento mori immediately brings to my mind the various paintings of St Jerome by one of my favorite Renaissance painters.

Known simply as Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) had a fiery temper and troubled life but painted some of the most thoughtful biblical art pieces I have ever come across.   

Here are two of his paintings of St Jerome, a doctor of the Roman Catholic church. 

Known for his Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, St Jerome is depicted here as someone who knows death as imminent.  The presence of a skull symbolizing our mortality as seen in Caravaggio’s paintings. 

How would you live your everyday if you knew death is on its way? 

How would you use this day differently?

St Jerome Writing c. 1607
St Jerome Writing c. 1605

Honey in the Rock

There’s something about going through God’s Word that is like honey in the rock.   Because that is exactly what we need these days.  Sweet honey for the road.

“But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Psalm 81:16

Therein perhaps  lies the answer.  Engage with God’s Word like St. Jerome.   I’d imagine that there were many dry days when St Jerome took on the work to translate the Bible.  But if you study Caravaggio’s depictions of this saint, you become suddenly aware of the sincerity required to read God’s Word.  

Open mind. Open heart. 

Open Scriptures.  

I don’t always have such a spirit but I reckon if I stay the course, I’d always find honey from the rock.  Happiness and self love would not be far from my reach.


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Terry

    I attended two funerals this week. They were celebrations of lives well lived and a very sacred time to stop and “Memento Mori.” The Pastor mentioned in the eulogy of one of the men that had passed away that he loved God and his word. That verse in Psalm just reminded me of him. He was daily excitedly reading the Bible and satisfied by the “honey of the word.”
    I loved learning this Latin phrase today to remind me, like the funerals did, that I too must die. Looking at my own mortality regularly is a very healthy exercise and as Eugene Peterson says—— keeps me on the path of the long obedience in the same direction.

    1. Angela

      With deep respect for your willingness to grow, hear and practice what God has to teach you. Thank you for your sharing and your example, Terry.

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