One major hallmark of historic Christian piety surrounding eventide is the mindfulness of death. Going to bed, the lights going out, going to sleep, is both culturally and biblically a metaphor for death. Countless evening hymns and prayers make reference to death, keeping the singer or pray-er mindful of his or her mortality.
Modern and post-modern culture does not encourage us to be mindful of death, rather, we are told to put death out of our minds entirely. Don’t worry about it, don’t obsess over it; it is morbid, we are told, to think about death. As a result, even at Funeral or Burial services we pressure ourselves and one another to think about life instead – it’s Memorial Service or a Celebration of Life, rather than mourning for the dear departed.
But the Prayer Book tradition continues faithfully on the track of historic Christian awareness of death. For example, the Wednesday Evening Collect, for Protection, reads thus:
O God, the life of all who live, the light of the faithful, the strength of those who labor, and the repose of the dead: We thank you for the blessings of the day that is past, and humbly ask for your protection through the coming night. Bring us in safety to the morning hours; through him who died and rose again for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Even though death is not the central theme or subject of this prayer, its reality is present and unavoidable. God is identified as “the repose of the dead” and Jesus specifically is invoked as the one “who died”.
Don’t breeze past prayers like these. It is not morbid to reflect upon your future death. It is wise, it is healthy, it is biblical! We do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s returning, and we hardly ever get forewarning of the the day or hour we finish this life either. It is good to be prepared, to have a last will & testament, to have funeral wishes written down, to be at peace with our brethren, to be ready to meet our Maker. Let these death-aware devotions each evening bring that moment of sobriety into your spiritual life… the world certainly won’t!