You are going to die.
The moment you are born you begin dying.
You may die in fifty years, ten years, perhaps tomorrow—or even today.
But whenever it happens, death awaits every person, whether rich or poor, young or old, believer or nonbeliever.
So, you must prepare.
Memento mori is not a momentary trend but an ancient practice encouraged by Scripture, Jesus, the Church Fathers, and many of the saints.
Memento mori or “remember your death” is a phrase that has been long associated with the practice of remembering the unpredictable and inevitable end of one’s life. The spiritual practice of memento mori and the symbols and sayings associated with it were particularly popular in the medieval church. But the tradition of remembering one’s death stretches back to the very beginning of salvation history.
After the first sin, God reminds Adam and Eve of their mortality: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). God’s words continue to echo throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, reminding readers of life’s brevity, while exhorting them to remember their death.
The Book of Sirach urges, “In all you do, remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin” (7:36). The Psalmist prays, “Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Ps 90:12).
In the New Testament, Jesus exhorts his disciples to pick up their crosses daily and to remember their death as they follow him to the Place of the Skull: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23).
Remembering one’s death is an absolutely essential aspect of the Christian life not only because it helps us to live well but also because it helps us to remember what Christ has done for us. Jesus trampled death!
Remember Your Death
Reflecting on death is not a morbid affair, it is a healthy and often healing practice that helps us accept the inevitable with hope. The practice, however, can bring complex emotions to the surface. For this reason, it is important to thoughtfully integrate memento mori into your spiritual life.
As you integrate memento mori into your life, you will find more fruit in the practice if you are able to connect with those in the community of the Church who are on the same journey. Talk with family and close friends about your journey. Share some of your reflections and reactions with the wider online community with the hashtags #mementomori and #livemementomori.
Death is the fate of every human being, but as Christians we also share the same hope of eternal life. Together on life’s journey, we can help one another both to keep our death in mind and our eyes on Jesus.