March 15, 2010

Momento Mori

Le Transi De Ren De Chalon Ligier R

I found this striking image at the Crescat, Prince of Orange, René de Chalons, died in battle in 1544, at age 25. His widow commissioned the sculptor Ligier Richier to represent him offering his heart to God, set against the painted splendour of his former worldly estate. Church of Saint-Étienne, Bar-le-Duc.

She is one of those Morbid Catholics and declares
Catholicism is the punk rock of religions. The Church is fearless in Her embrace of death. We love our relics, cherish our martyrs, talk to the dead and pray for a happy death!

Momento Mori is the Latin phrase translated as 'Remember you must die'.  It also names an entire genre of art most often found in cemeteries that reminds people of their own mortality and short time here on earth.  There is a subgenre called Vanitas to describe a still life featuring symbols of mortality and often including a skull.  Below is Vanitas by Phillipe de Champaigne symbolizing Life, Death and Time.


"Remember you must die", momento mori is one of those universal spiritual truths that we all know and too often forget.    "Keep death daily before you," urges the Rule of St. Benedict.  In the HBO series Six Feet Under, Nate Fisher runs the family funeral home with his brother after his father is killed by a bus.  Nate, who never wanted to go into the family business, is asked by a grief-stricken woman whose aunt , the only person who truly loved her, died in a freak accident, "Why do people have to die?"  Nate is silent than says poignantly., "To make life important."

The key to living life intensely is to keep the awareness before us as much as we can.  You can even have a momento mori on your iPhone.    It's called  Vanitas and I have it.


Posted by Jill Fallon at March 15, 2010 1:00 AM | Permalink