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Posted by on Feb 19, 2015 | 0 comments

The Promise of Death

The Promise of Death

In his last post, Lance pointed out that our culture exists within a paradox of constant denial of death and simultaneous embrace of death. We consume death and we look away from it, assuring ourselves that as we pile up our kingdom on the bones of the dead we will never die. As I said in my post last year, “The tension of death’s simultaneous presence and absence places us in a psychologically untenable place. We know we are dying, we know others die, yet we are unequipped to face it—we lack even the language.” As Lance says, Ash Wednesday speaks into this paradox, it “reveals an authentic death” and this death leads us through to life. This means, of course, that Ash Wednesday’s declaration of death is not simply to our culture, it speaks to the Christian, taming temporal triumphalism and situating our lives here within the promise of life to come. To the Christian tempted to think that our place as children of God means temporal fortune and favour, Ash...

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Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 | 0 comments

Momento Mori

Momento Mori

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” I still remember the first time a priest said these words to me as he inscribed a cross of ash upon my forehead. Though that act took place in a moment of ritual embedded in a long tradition, it was in that moment as if he, and God through him, were speaking to me alone. The words dripped with intentionality, vivid and sharp, and they pierced through my consciousness to uncover something deeper which always lay below—an awareness of death. I am dying. Not in any dramatic and immediate way (to my knowledge), but death has been bearing down on me from the moment of my birth. As the priest placed those ashes on my head, I felt the horror and sadness of this fact, but I also felt release. We live in a world where death is everywhere present, and yet forever removed from our consciousness. The meat we eat comes packed and clean, separate from the...

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Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 | 2 comments

Putrefaction and the Beatific Vision

Putrefaction and the Beatific Vision

To remember the dead is, in a certain sort of way, to keep them alive. When we speak of those who have passed through this life, the great men and women of history, we are keeping from death. We create historical narratives in order to justify the importance of their existence. We must do this because the body they once had has been irrevocably changed—decomposition is, after all, the great equalizer. In order to raise a dead body to the level of a god one seeks to stop decomposition. Ancient cultures practiced mummification; most recently the Communist regimes in Russia and China sought to preserve their leaders Lenin and Mao by embalming them; in Christianity one way to determine if a dead person is a saint is to see how quickly they decompose. In these examples a non-decomposing body becomes something else—it points to the eternal reality that the religion or ideology is promoting. For the Communists, the preservation of Lenin and Mao points to the permanence of the...

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Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 | 3 comments

How to Help a Grieving Friend

How to Help a Grieving Friend

Over the next four months I will be writing an awful lot about grief for my thesis. I imagine much of what I write and think will end up on this blog. Grief is difficult to write about because it is incredibly subjective. We can talk about our experience of grieving, but to objectively state this is how one should grieve — that is plain preposterous. It has been 8 years since the death of my wife, and during this time I have often been asked what is the best way to comfort someone who is suffering, or someone who has experienced loss, or someone who is grieving. We want to reach out and help that person and we want some simple solution to make everything better. This is understandable, but is completely the opposite of what one should do. There are three basic views I could hold on my experience of loss. The first is: God smote Rachael down in wrath and we who are left to pick up...

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