Thursday, November 9, 2017

Art of Dying: Art of LIving

According to the Church's liturgical calendar, we are now in the month of the Holy Souls, the last month of the liturgical calendar and late fall. A seminary professor reminisces for the readers in a diocesan bulletin on his visit to the cemetery for Mass and the thoughts that came to him walking as on a picnic viewing the grave sites. He thought of his own death and considered it 'practicing for death'.

Many ancient philosophers believed that it was proof of a true philosopher to spend time during life  'practicing for death'. From the time of Socrates and Plato in the Greek era to Marcus Aurelius and Seneca in the Roman era, reflecting on 'Practicing for Death' was the preeminent example of a philosophy of life.

For the ancient sages, the meditation on death was the 'ars moriendi' ( the art of dying) which was the way to prepare to live: 'ars vivendi' (art of living). This was the way to put our minds and souls in order to enjoy the gift of life, true happiness and to learn the way of correct living.

In the book Phaedo by Plato he talks about the death of his teacher Socrates: true philosophers spend their entire lives preparing for death and dying, so also with Socrates who welcomed death when the time came.

It is the practice of meditating on death that one has the correct perception of what life is all about and this was also the teaching of the wise in Christianity. 

Imitation of Christ, a book that was familiar to many from the middle ages to the present has some wise words on death. "Very soon your life here will end; consider, then, what may be in store for you elsewhere. Today we live; tomorrow we die and are quickly forgotten. Oh, the dullness and hardness of a heart which looks only to the present instead of preparing for that which is to come! Therefore, in every deed and every thought, act as though you were to die this very day. If you had a good conscience you would not fear death very much. It is better to avoid sin than to fear death. If you are not prepared today, how will you be prepared tomorrow? Tomorrow is an uncertain day; how do you know you will have a tomorrow?" (1st Book chap. 23) 

Living life sincerely, fully and happily is preparing for death and being thankful for the gift of life. Thankful for what I was able to do and offer up all my failings and with empty hands to trust in the mercy of God with a transparency of soul.

The writer finishes the article with a mention of the Cantata #82  Ich Habe Genug, composed by J.S. Bach for the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mother:

"It is enough.

I have held the Savior, the hope of all peoples,

In the warm embrace of my arms.

It is enough."