If you have ever watched the amazing film Into Great Silence you will have seen, felt and sensed the rhythm of the Liturgical year-moving with the breath of the world somehow. The man who made that film truly understood how the seasons of prayer works.
Today is the end of the year, marked by the fulfilment of history, Christ the King. This is the “already but not yet” before we plunge back into the darkness of waiting for the Light through Advent, and so the year begins again.
It’s the same with Divine Office (again used beautifully in Into Great Silence) which begins with the morning prayer based on our recognition of needing a Saviour and of waiting, through the day of work and thanksgiving for family and life and to Night Prayer with its fear of sickness and death that ends with the peacefulness of the Prayer of Simeon, “Now let your servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen the salvation…” and the words of Christ “Into Your hands Lord I commend my spirit.”
The Liturgical year recognises the human condition and the human spirit in a way no psychologist I have ever read has grasped. It takes Scripture and uses it to illustrate and high light the longing of the soul and through the prayers of the day and the year shows us how to get rid of guilt, to find forgiveness, salvation and peace and how not ever to need to fear death.
Do not be afraid.
The Four Last Things we are taught are Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. We need not fear death, though many do. So many people fear the process of death, that it will be long, drawn out, undignified and painful. Perhaps there is reason to fear that the care offered at the end of life will be poor, as this culture demands that people be executed for being frail, old and sick. But there must be families and others willing to stand firm for proper palliative care, so that people can die in their own time and God’s time but with proper pain relief and dignified care. Hospices offer this, but are not common and only funded through the generosity of those willing to give.
I do not doubt that how we treat the vulnerable will effect how we die ourselves. And after death comes the particular judgement in which we will remember all to well how we treated those around us. At last will come the final judgement and Purgatory will shut it’s doors as those souls joyfully enter heaven and for the rest there is only heaven, and hell. It’s a choice and we make it by how we live.