Eugene Peterson tells a wonderful story in his memoir, The Pastor. (By the way, it's a fabulous read. If you are a pastor, or were a pastor, or might be a pastor, or know a pastor, or can pronounce pastor, you should get it.) Eugene (I call him "Genie") and his wife were visiting a Benedictine monastery named Christ in the Desert. On their way to the refectory where they were to have lunch, they walked past the graveyard and noticed an open grave. Eugene asked which member of the community had died recently.
"No one," he was told. "That grave is for the next one."
Each day, three times a day, as they walk from praying to eating, the members of that community are reminded of what we spend our waking hours trying to forget.
One of them will be the next one.
The contemplation of death used to be a regular feature of spiritual life. Now we live in what Ernst Becker called "The Denial of Death." Woody Allen wrote that he didn't mind the thought of dying; he just didn't want to be there when it ...1