Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thoughts on the End of Life

Not to be morbid, but I'm "of an age" now when probably 85% of my life is behind me - there isn't much left - and I'm facing the inevitability of dying. My Orthodox faith requires me to retain my hope for the Resurrection. My very human brain insists upon throwing out doubts to be overcome.

On Sunday I was preparing for some people to come to our home. Now I'm NOT a housekeeper, so the house was a total wreck. Much like my spiritual house. I "knocked myself out" rushing around getting things ready. I had to rest frequently, and at a couple of points I experienced chest pain, pressure and shoulder pain. Was it a heart attack? Was it THE heart attack? No, neither. It was my esophageal spasm acting up because I ate too large a breakfast. Happens. But here I was trying to get ready for guests and wondering if the guests would find me dead.

This certainly is an apt description of death. It comes with no regard for our plans. It happens. And my spiritual house needs refreshing even more than my physical house.

Prayers, almsgiving, reception of the sacraments - how to get it all in? Will God reject me? What if He does? Regardless of the assertions of some, there is no way to be certain. God isn't a "great computer in the sky" that will carry out salvation if I punch the right buttons in the right sequence. He saves us regardless of our unworthiness, and we condemn ourselves regardless of our outward appearance.

All we can do is live as if today is our last on earth, loving God and loving others to the best of our paltry ability - as if by the end of the day we will stand before the dread judgement seat of God.

I find myself doing that more and more as time goes on, but still finding that I'm not doing it enough. I can never be totally prepared - only in semi-readiness.

Open to me the doors of repentance, O LifeGiver!
For my spirit rises to pray towards Thy Holy Temple
Bearing the temple of my body, all defiled,
But in Thy Compassion
Purify me by the loving kindness of Thy Mercy.

Lead me on the path of salvation, O Mother of God
For I have profaned my soul with shameful sins
And have wasted my life in laziness
But by thy intercessions
Deliver me from all impurity.

Have mercy on me, O God,
According to Thy great Mercy
And according to the multitude of Thy Compassion
Blot out my transgressions.

When I think of the dreadful things I have done
Wretch that I am
I think of the fearful day of judgement
But trusting in Thy loving kindness
Like David I cry unto Thee:

Have mercy on me, O God
Have mercy on me, O God
Have mercy on me, O God
According to Thy great mercy!
{from the Mattins of Great Lent}

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