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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dies Irae, Die Laetitiae (Day of Wrath, Day of Joy)

by Shawn Tucker:

There is traditional funeral music dating from medieval times that includes a section called the Dies Irae, which is Latin for “Day of Wrath.” The music warns of an ultimate judgment day, a day when the sinful would experience God’s anger. As Mormons, though we acknowledge both, we don’t typically emphasize either God’s wrath or a dreadful final verdict; perhaps a final Judgment day merits some reflection.

My typical image of Judgment Day involves a lot of people sitting around watching the DVD of each individual’s life. There is a funny Calvin Grondhal cartoon that puts forward the idea that those who would not be exalted to the Celestial kingdom would be asked to pick up and put away all of the Judgment Day chairs, inevitably trying to stack all of them properly on those rickety carts and slide them under the stage. The Egyptian idea of final judgment was weighing a person’s heart against a feather. Does God make some sort of tally marks as each person’s DVD rolls on the big screen, drawing up some final cumulative total indicating to that individual the mansion or condo or duplex or shack or van down by the river wherein they will be spending eternity?

Once you actually start to think about it, the idea that Judgment Day is a day of wrath becomes clear. As I mentioned in a previous post, when I was 17 a close friend died from bone cancer. Imagine how I might feel on Judgment Day if I were able to see that Greg’s cancer was not completely accidental or an act of God? What if, on that day, I learned that the willful neglect of some people had directly led to Greg’s cancer? Imagine the shock, surprise, and bright, burning anger that I might feel. I think that we should anticipate that if there is a Judgment Day that it will be filled with dark, painful, and nasty surprises. We will see how the actions of others have affected us and our loved ones in tremendously painful ways. Those surprises will truly make that a day of wrath.

Of course, in addition to dark, painful, and nasty surprises, one must anticipate many light and joyous and wonderful surprises. What will be revealed will include large and small acts of kindness or generosity or forgiveness whose effects rippled through lives and generations. It will be truly a day of joy.

And if there is such a day of judgment, I wonder if we will all be seen truly as we are seen? Perhaps it will not be a movie of everyone’s life. Perhaps we will see Christ, and, in seeing Christ see ourselves and others completely and as we really are. It seems to me that the One who loves us most, giving all for us, is the One who knows us best and is the One who knows us truly. We are transparent to Him. Will we then become transparent to everyone? On such a day, will we see others through Christ?

If Judgment Day is a day when we are truly seen for who we are then this makes it the most vulnerable of days. Will everyone be forced to be vulnerable? In traditional Western art such vulnerability was conveyed by way of showing everyone who is brought before God as naked (see the above visual). Will we all stand metaphorically naked before God and others on such a day? Would such a day be one of intense fear, shame, and hiding? Will the fear and the dread of such vulnerability and potential shame cause some to shrink or to flee? Will it cause others to lash out in anger or blame or fiery denials? Or will that vulnerability bring with it the blessed relief of truly being seen for who you are? And will that vulnerability also bring with it an opportunity for forgiveness and for acceptance? And would such a vulnerability also bring with it the chance for connection, and a kind of connection that could never be possible within the limitations of mortality?

If that same spirit we have here will accompany us there, is God preparing us now for such a day?

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Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website:
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gif Image credit: Wikipedia, detail from Stefan Lochner's Last Judgment.

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