The Art of Dying

The art of dying is a literary genre of Christian devotional writings known by scholars as the ars moriendi. In a time of disease, plague, war and famine, not to mention economic strife and all out social distress, being prepared to die was a valued discipline. Johann Gerhard had first hand knowledge of all of these burdens and in 1611 published this Handbook of Consolations: For the Fears and Trials That Oppress Us in the Struggle with Death in order to encourage “readers to reflect on their own death and prepare themselves to not only live but also die according to the Gospel.” (Intro. xi)

Below are several rad quotes from the heart of the book that I find to be rather profound:

“Paulinus of Nola writes the following verses: ‘The Holy Spirit into running water descends and, uniting this sacred water with its heavenly spring, God bears from the sacred and nourishing waters, a child from eternal seed. Wondrous is God’s fatherly love, for the sinner is plunged into the water and then comes forth justified. So man achieves a happy death and birth, dying to things earthly and being born to things eternal. His sin dies, but his life returns. The old Adam perishes and the new Adam is born for eternal sway.’” (p. 30)

“The grace of the Father adopting, the merit of the Son cleansing, and the power of the Holy Spirit regenerating all coincide in our baptism. Therefore, if you are baptized, you can by no means doubt that you have the grace of God, remission of sins, and the promise of eternal life. Baptism is the washing of regeneration. Where there is regeneration, there is remission of sins, the grace of God, perfect righteousness, renewal, the gift of the Holy Spirit, adoption, and the inheritance of eternal life.” (p. 30)

“What is more important to us than what we eat and drink? Such food is either transformed into the substance of our own bodies as natural and basic sustenance for us, or it transforms and changes us into itself. The latter happens with that spiritual sustenance of the body and blood of the Lord which we truly eat. We do not, however, change Him into what we are, rather He changes us into what He is.” (p. 33)

“Weak faith is still faith. Faith does not apprehend Christ and in Christ the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, because it is strong but because it is faith.” (p. 36)

Photograph © 2014 Tyrel Bramwell

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