[Column] Memento Mori

Memento Mori

Written By Rev.Dr. Joshua Hong

Senior Pastor of Full Gospel Church of Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.

The creature with the shortest lifespan on the earth is the mayfly. During the summer, an adult mayfly may only live up to two hours and never live more than a day. In case of cicadas, an adult may live for two weeks. The lifespan of  a fly is 8 days, a rabbit 8 years, a dog 15 years, an ant 25 years, a pig 30 years, an eagle 70 years and ginkgos and zelkova few hundred years. Every living thing on the earth has its lifespan.

Humans are no exception. Even in this age of scientific and medical breakthroughs, human lifespan on average slightly exceeds 80 years. Japan is considered the longest living country with an average lifespan of 84 years. Yet this is a recent phenomenon. It was only after 1947 that average male lifespan exceeded 50 years. Even in Jesus’ time, the average lifespan was shorter than 50 years. Be that as it may, people live life as though they could live forever. The breath of life is the nose and death occurs when that breath ceases (Ecclesiastes 3:19). Nothing in this life lasts forever. Only God is eternal.

There is a Latin phrase, Memento mori. The word memento means to remember or ponder upon and the word mori means death. The phrase means, “remember death” or “live by pondering upon death.”  It seems like yesterday when I was in school. The older generation often says, “Time flies like an arrow.” The older I grow, the more I tend to agree.

The Bible says it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Why so? At the house of feasting, people just “laugh and be merry.” End of the story. At the house of mourning, however, they are reminded of memento mori. They reflect upon imminent, inevitable death for which the guests of the house mourn. Then they cherish the remainder of their life and its meaning. We must prepare for our eternal life by reflecting upon death, Heaven, and Hell.

Many of you are familiar with Rodin’s most recognized sculpture, The Thinker. Despite its evocation of beauty, it is in fact a depiction of something ominous. The sculpture is Rodin’s interpretation of the emotional struggle of mankind as it enters the Gates of Hell in Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy. Before we go travel, we carefully plan and pack the things we need. The date of the ravel to the eternal world is drawing near. We must behold eternal God and prepare every moment according to His will (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Everyone dies. Only when we contemplate upon this simple truth, can we live the life full of wisdom. Memento mori!

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