Weekly Devotional

Memento Mori

Reflection by Mary Luti

But God said to the rich man, ‘This very night you will die. Then what will happen to everything you stored up?’


The thing I like best about my office is that it looks out on the churchyard cemetery. I feel blessed to have a daily reminder, in marble and slate, that death comes to us all.

Centuries ago, many Christians deliberately cultivated a vivid awareness of death. They called the practice memento mori’—remember you die. Pondering death kept them honest about life. Death’s inevitability taught them that nothing in life is secure. Death’s democracy taught them that privilege doesn’t count in the grave.

They didn’t find thinking about death grim. What they found grim was the way the material things we collect and store like cadavers in a morgue captivate our hearts. In view of death, it seemed foolish to aspire to the unnecessary, to prefer ephemeral things to lasting ones. The bracing fact of mortality freed them up to respond readily to God and to the urgent claims of their neighbors.

Seeing the churchyard from my office quickly right-sizes things I’d otherwise inflate with false importance. Every day I ask our quiet forbears to keep the congregation honest too—to teach us by their silence and dust always to distinguish well between what matters in the end, and what matters not at all.

We too will die. So let us live. Live mindfully and well, live for each other, live for the least, live for what matters most, live for love, live for God.

Prayer: Help us consider our deaths, merciful God, and to live in view of them with freedom, truth, and joy.

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