Montaigne, that principle creator of the essayist’s art was a French philosopher and skeptic during the French Renaissance. Among the many insights that he wrote the following thought has captured my own attention this morning:
“The utility of living consists not in the length of days, but in the use of time: a man may have lived long, and yet lived but a little.” – Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592). See Chapter XIX, “That to Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die” in his complete essays (http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Essays_of_Montaigne).
The unrelenting conspiracy of the genes to release the four horsemen of the Apocalypse on each of us is a result of the curse of the Fall. To combat those horsemen and put them off for a while may be valiant, but robbing them of their total triumph by living with purpose is noble.
Montaigne seemed to mock death with an indifference:
“I would always have a man to be doing, and, as much as in him lies, to extend and spin out the offices of life; and then let death take me planting my cabbages, indifferent to him, and still less of my garden’s not being finished.”
But is indifference the only escape from death’s incessant stalking? Is there nobility in that?
Surely the Roman Catholic Michel de Montaigne knew that Saint Paul taught a cure to death’s reign not by indifference to it nor foolish, blissful denial of it, but rather confronting its power with the life, death, and resurrection from the dead of Jesus. The soul that is renewed in the grace of God in Christ Jesus is reanimated—reborn—and fitted to soar beyond withering senescance and into the eternal light of pure love. It is the victory that St. Paul wrote of:
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
The life of Jesus in a man causes him to live even though we die. The paradoxical power of the cross is that the very thing that seeks to destroy us has become through Christ’s victory the thing that saves us. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is neither metaphysical sophistry nor Stoical refusal. This is faith: faith for living. This is the Gospel. And in the Gospel death has met its match. Redemption in Jesus our Lord has signaled that death must die.