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Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

A favorite insightful Canadian blogger (David Warren - “Essays in Idleness”) I follow daily ended his today’s brief post announcing his temporary absence from his blog space thus: “Compose each one [of your blog posts] as if it were your last. Eventually, one will be.”

This reminded me of a priest (Fr. Larry Richards - on YouTube) who recounted in a homily that he had seen a sign in the chapel of Mother Teresa of Calcutta which reads: “Oh priest of God, say this Mass as if it were your first Mass. Say this Mass as if it were your last Mass. Say this Mass as if it were your only Mass.”

Wise advice from two wise people. But they are not the only people who have given that advice or exhortation, although expressed in different words.

The Boy Scouts have their motto: “Always be prepared.”

One poem in our high school English literature class is "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" by English poet Thomas Gray. Our teacher made us memorize some stanzas. One has stuck in my mind:

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,

And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,

Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

Stoic philosophy, which does not believe in an afterlife, or is at least unsure about it, has this to say:

“Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to live. The inescapable is hanging over your head. While you have life in you, while you still can, make yourself good." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.17)

For us Catholics Holy Scriptures is clear:

“For this reason, you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” (Matthew 24:44)

Is it morbid to think about death? Not so, I believe. It is a sign of practical wisdom. Provided we think of life, how we need to live it. An American poet, William Cullen Bryant, in his "Thanatopsis" suggests imagery of how one must live his life, thus:

“So live, that when thy summons comes to join

The innumerable caravan, which moves

To that mysterious realm, where each shall take

His chamber in the silent halls of death,

Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night,

Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed

By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

In ancient Rome, a general coming home victorious from a foreign battle rode triumphantly around the city in a chariot to receive the adulation of the people. Behind him is a slave continuously whispering to him: ”‘Remember you are mortal.”

“The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

Sic transit gloria mundi. (Thus passes the glory of the world.)

But to us believers, followers and lovers of Christ, it is not the end. It is only the beginning. #


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