In the day that God made the earth and the heavens, then God formed the human from the dust of the ground and breathed into them the breath of life, and the human became a living being. And God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and put the human there. – Genesis 2:4b-8 (NRSV, abridged and adapted)
Many mornings when I wake up still here, I ask God to help me live the day as if it were my last. It’s an ancient monastic practice called memento mori: “remember that you will die.” I skip the part that suggests you place the visual prompt of a human skull on your desk while you pray and work.
With or without a skull, it’s a helpful practice. The idea is that if you imagine it’s your last day, you’ll live it with sharpened moral senses, in kinder and more urgent service to your neighbor, and with greater freedom to speak the truth finally without fear. And when sometimes God grants me a last day kind of day, I am earnest and purposeful.
But lately, when morning comes and I’m still here, I’ve been asking God to grant me a different prayer: that I might live the day not as my last, but as my first: dizzy, slack-jawed, fascinated, and just a little terrified by the world, its spectacular material, its being possible, original, and good. Fascinated and just a little terrified, too, by my body and yours breathing in this world, the way they shine, beheld in awe by a smitten God. And when sometimes God grants me a first day kind of day, I am a nuisance of praise.
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning; born of the one light Eden saw play. Praise with elation, praise every morning; God’s re-creation of the new day!