The Face of Death
Dear old and new friends,
Creation these late November days presents a living meditation on death, even if we don’t want to think about that dreaded subject. The once green leaves have turned scarlet golden, then brownish-gray and finally drop to join a wind-shifting yellow crowd of other fallen ones at the bottom of trees. October’s autumn is an image of the golden years of old age, while November’s autumn with its bare skeleton tree branches with their few clinging, crinkled brown leaves is a picture of the nearing end of life. Since medieval times November is the month to remember our departed ones and to reflect upon our own death.
Of course, self-blinded by our obsessive anxieties about our daily troubles, we can fail to see or hear what creation is saying. Or mindful of creation’s cycles we know that after a dreary winter wait it will return again to the greenness of abounding life, and so we need not fret about dying. While in these last weeks of November nature wears the bleak bare face of death we can ask, “But is that the really the face of Death?”
Regardless of your age or health, open your eyes to death that is all around you in creation and pause to meditate on that ultimate reality in your life. While personally doing just that I recalled Teilhard de Chardin’s The Divine Milieu, in which he wrote of death. So I re-read his visionary thoughts of it, and so powerful did I find them that I now present them to you to read slowly as this week’s Haystack reflection.
Grant when my hour comes, that I may recognize you
under the species of each alien or hostile force
that seems bent upon destroying or uprooting me.
When the signs of age begin to mark my body
(and still more when they touch my mind);
when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off
strikes from without or is born within me;
when the painful moment comes in which I
suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old;
and above all at that last moment
when I feel I am loosing hold of myself
and am absolutely passive within the hands
of the great unknown forces that have formed me;
in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I
may understand that it is you!
Teach me to treat my death as an act of communion.