Ars Moriendi: The art of dying well. Death is not a good thing; God imposed it on Adam and Eve and the entire human race as a punishment for sin. How, then, does one “die well”? With faith and confidence in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Ars Moriendi is an ancient tradition of books and pamphlets written for Christians to contemplate death. Johann Gerhard, in 1611, wrote one such book called The Handbook of Consolations. He asked and answered many of the questions, fears, doubts and temptations that plague Christians as they contemplate death.
This issue of The Lutheran Witness brings some of Gerhard’s questions and answers into the 21st century. Much about our current situation has not changed from 1611. We still face death; Satan still tempts us to doubt and despair in the face of it. At the same time, we face different challenges, such as questions revolving around hospice care, nursing homes and more.
For this issue of LW, I have called on our experts in dying — the pastors of the LCMS. They have sat beside the dying. They have prayed, sang, taught and comforted Christ’s people in their final hours. These experts in dying offer here a small handbook of consolations for you. They answer fears about hospice and nursing homes, fears of faith and conscience, the temptations and doubts Satan throws at you.
Every day, we draw one step closer to either our Lord’s return or our physical death. Regardless of your age, these questions and answers will drive you to reflect on your final moments and prepare for death, whenever it may come. More importantly, through this I encourage you to contemplate and trust in Christ’s resurrection … for you.
Dying well in Christ,
Roy S. Askins
Managing Editor, The Lutheran Witness