Submitted by Andy McIlvain.
Memento mori is the Medieval Latin Christian theory and practice of reflection on our mortality, the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. Memento mori literally means “Remember you must die”
Hebrews 9: 27 says that people are destined (appointed) to die once and after that to face judgment. You and I have an appointment. We are called to remember death. Death is certain, mine and yours.
In our cultural past, when life expectancy was half of what it is today, we remembered death daily. Symbols of death were common in everyday life. The Puritans, for example, adorned their gravestones with skeletons, skulls wings, and scythes. Public clocks and sundials would be decorated with mottos such as ultima forsan (perhaps the last [hour]) or vulnerant omnes, ultima necat (All tick-tocks wound, and the last tick-tock kills). Even today some clocks often carry the motto tempus fugit (time flies).
Memento Memori symbols whether they are on coins, paintings, tattoos or on headstones act as reminders not to obsess over the small things in life, or try to become famous, or seek excessive riches, or plan an unrealistic future. All these temporary things are negated by death, so it’s time we stop pretending, we must be death aware.
We live in a culture that denies and sanitizes death or glorifies death in morbid entertainment.
Remembering our eventual and certain death reminds us of our future with Christ. Someday you will be at His feet. We have bodies and souls. Death is the separation of body and soul, not the end of our personhood (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Jonathan Edwards said, “By death the true believer is brought to the possession of all those heavenly riches, honors, and glorious pleasures that were laid up by Christ for him. Being thus made gloriously beautiful, with perfect holiness, he is embraced in the arms of his glorified Redeemer and he is conducted to the infinite treasure that was laid up for him.”
As the image of our creator, we should, while on this earth, be about the business of building, treasuring and serving our families, cultivating friendships and serving our church family and community, starting businesses and institutes, creating art, making scientific discoveries, and writing books, to name a few. But time and death levels them all. All will be forgotten. The only one who sees all and remembers all is Christ our Lord and Judge. Memento mori.