Jesus' Last Words as Ars Moriendi
Stories abound of people who have lived through a coma who later relate tales of their experience. Whether they hear sounds around them or simply have some form of consciousness, far from being inertas they physically appear to betheir minds are alert. They are personally very much alive.
So, Jesus' final words, "I entrust my spirit into your hands," show Jesus participating in his death. Luke 23:46 says, "And with those words, he breathed his last."
As with all spiritual work, preparing to die is best practiced throughout life. Forgiving and taking care of others and acknowledging to God our needs are routine spiritual duties. While our age of gradual dying affords unique opportunities to grow spiritually, how we die is often a reflection of how we live. So while Jesus' words can be read as ars moriendi, they are best contemplated as the art of living.
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Ira Byock's website has more about his work as a hospice doctor.
"Living Well at the End of Life," a study by the Rand Corporation, discusses the shift to gradual dying.
"I Thirst" is a meditation on the last words of Christ.
Other Christianity Today articles on end of life issues include:
Euthanasia Confusion | Newspaper accounts of end-of-life debates too often muddle the issues. (Feb. 1, 2007)
Go Gently into That Good Night | Fear of mortality lies at the root of our bioethics confusion. A Christianity Today editorial (Jan. 2, 2007)
Choosing a Partner, Not a Future | Margaret Kim Peterson, author of Sing Me to Heaven, discusses her marriage to a man dying of AIDS and the theological lessons she learned. (August 1, 2003)
A Green and Dying Tree | I saw the fruit of healing prayer even as AIDS was taking my husband's life. (August 1, 2003)
A Good Death | My husband was more whole on his deathbed than at any other time in his life. (May 22, 2000)
Death, Inc. | What the funeral industry doesn't want you to know. (April 26, 1999)
Christianity Today's life ethics section is available online.
More Holy Week articles include:
CT Classic: The Jesus We Never Got | Elijah stands for what I want in a God: someone to offer an escape route around life's messiest problems. By Philip Yancey (Dec. 8, 1997)
Resurrected Life | Quotations about Easter to stir heart and mind. (April 2, 2007)
Images of Calvary | Contemporary Christian artists reflect on Good Friday. (April 3, 2007)
CT Classic: You Can't Keep a Justified Man Down | An interview with N. T. Wright, author of The Resurrection of the Son of God. (April 1, 2003)