Happy Monday! Since yesterday's gospel was the raising of Lazarus, I'll start the week by sharing one of my favorite old-timey Catholic prayers (the kind your kids won't learn in CCD or hear on a New Age-y nun-led retreat). This one, incredibly, has helped me cope with Existential Dread.
You as in, you. Die, as in, gone, as bafflingly and totally gone as that husk-like guy in pancake makeup, lying in a glossy box surrounded by floral arrangements, at the last wake you went to. Because the husk was there, but the guy wasn't. Existential dread! Not the terror of getting there, in the ER or the doomed plane, no, the terror of not being anymore.
I deal with this terror by eating in the middle of the night. The mighty modernists dealt with it on nearly-bare stages where men grapple with ultimate meaninglessness. Jesus deals with it by telling us to hold on until He gets there, and He will call us out and set us free.
Surrendering to that faith must be about the hardest thing there is. (Where did the husk-guy go? Where is he now? Why did someone put a DVD of his favorite movie in the box with him?)
For some reason, this prayer from my dad's old Missal has helped me connect to my Lazarus faith. There are various prayers like this, often called "Prayers for a Happy Death." (Happy!) This one is called "an act of resignation," and it is an act: outrageous, simple and radical. It's like falling off a cliff and trusting someone invisible will be there to catch you. It is practice, and I try to practice every day...or at least in the middle of the night.
An Act of Resignation
My Lord God, even now I accept at Thy hands, cheerfully and willingly, with all its anxieties, pains and sufferings, whatever kind of death it shall please thee to be mine.
James R. C. Martin is a painter in Ivybridge, Devon, England. Not all his paintings are religious in theme, but the faith-based ones are unsentimental, evocative, and lovely.