|Caravaggio's 'St. Jerome' depicts how St. Jerome kept a skull in a prominent place in his home to 'remember death' and to live his life in light of that reality.|
Psalm 145:2-3, 10-13
Today we hear Mother Church reminding us of our three deaths - we are invited to two and obliged to accept the third. These three deaths are, of course, our baptism, our path to holiness, and our physical death.
In his letter to the Colossians we hear St. Paul reminding them "You have died!" This calls to mind the fact that in baptism we truly do die with Our Lord. The ancient symbol of immersion was often viewed as one entering into the grave and, after full immersion, a subsequent rising from the grave and into the promise of new life. It reminds us that the life we led before is gone and that we are new creatures in Christ, adopted sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. This adoption leads us to the second death that we are invited to receive - the daily death to ourselves that characterizes the life of those who take seriously the death they endured in baptism. This daily death points out the fact that although we are new creations, we still have concupiscence in our heart (a tendency toward sin) and that we must fight to rid ourselves of those things that are not fitting to our new adopted status. This daily death we must accept until we encounter that final death, which all the living must endure and pass through to gain eternal life.
The beauty of these deaths is that we do not simply stop at death, for as Mother Church reminds us in our Collect (Opening Prayer) today, Christ has conquered death and brought life. Our first death allows us to rise to that new status; the second death allows us to rise from vice to virtue; and the third death enables us to enter into that Eternal Life promised to us in baptism, where we might join with the angels and saints in praising the Trinity for all eternity.