“My soul, my soul, arise! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded. Awake, then, and be watchful, that Christ our God may spare you, Who is everywhere present and fills all things.” (Kontakion-hymn, Great Canon of St. Andrew)
Whether we like it or not, our mortality, or the fact that we will all, indeed, die a physical death, is something with which we are confronted more and more as we age. This fact really begins to “hit home” for many of us when we lose a parent, or notice our parents ageing. Psychologists observe that such reminders of our own mortality often cause depression, existential angst, and various unhealthy behaviours in middle- aged people in our time.
But there is nothing morbid or dark in “remembering death,” as we are taught to do regularly in our beautiful Tradition. Here’s the paradoxical thing about actively remembering death: It makes me more “watchful” and “awake” to life. I learn to pay attention more, to the presence of God in my here and now, in the people, places, and situations I am given today from Him, “Who is everywhere present and fills all things.” I learn not to miss out on what I am called to do in the today, in usefulness to myself and others, rather than let life pass by and just “happen,” as John Lennon said, “when you’re not paying attention.”
Let me “awake, then, and be watchful,” on this sunny Friday. “I shall not die, but live, and I shall tell of the works of the Lord.” (Ps 117/118: 17)