Remembrance Sunday – A Reflection
MEMENTO MORTUORUM – MEMENTO MORI
Remember the dead! Remember death!
A miniature coffin lay in front of the Altar in Fundong Church in Cameroon every year in November in the 90s when we grew up and went for daily Masses; scaring the h*** out of us with the words: As you are, so was I; as I am, so shall you be! Memento Mori!
Thirty years on, the prayer for a good death echoes in the same Church every morning in the dialect after Mass (ever since the crisis hit fatally) and everyone knows it’s not a child’s place: “I will die, even though I do not know the time or the place or how; but if I have to die with a grave sin in my soul, I will be lost forever, my good Jesus, have mercy on me.”
Ask the dead and they will tell you! Ask the elders and they will remind you! Ask the dying, read the “pornography of death” and you will know.
Every year, all of us experience the tragedy of the loss of a relative, friend, parishioner, neighbour, politician, or celebrity.
Many of us have stopped finding shooting or killing fun(ny) in films or games or live, for it never can be when the gun is turned round to face the shooter. Many learn the hard and raw lesson by seeing skeletons, corpses or even relics.
It takes faith, courage, surrender, hope and serenity to pray for a happy death and for the dead, as groaned in psalm 130 – De profundis. Indeed the faith of the parish community that prays the Anima Christi, the Prayer of St Francis of Assissi and the prayer for a happy death every day is unprecedented, humbling and noble.
As December and April always ignite or point us to joy, birth, light and new life, November seems to inevitably and undeniably point to us the dead and death itself. No looking away, just facing it with prayer, with unprecedented faith.
Who among us doesn’t go speechless and powerless recalling the dead in wars, illnesses or accidents, in cenotaphs or cemeteries, our age or younger?
Oh the Four Last Things! Oh Eschatology! Oh Death, Oh Judgement, Oh Heaven, oh Hell!
Lest we forget.
Blessed Remembrance Weekend.
Memento Mori – Memento Mortuorumm – remember the dead and remember your death!
Emmanuel Mbeh MHM, 2022.