A Book of Common Prayer "In The Midst Of Life We Are In Death"

Joan Didion

"In The Midst Of Life We Are In Death"

Context: According to The Order for the Burial of the Dead from The Book of Common Prayer, while the body is being made ready to be placed in the grave, there shall be said or sung, by those standing by, the anthem from which this quotation is taken. This anthem, retaining the medieval sense of awe and dread in the presence of death, acknowledges this sense as a judgment upon our sins from whose bitter pains we may be spared by the mercy of our Saviour and Judge. The anthem, one of the few survivals of the medieval spirit in the Prayer Book offices of the dead, is as follows:

Man, that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?
Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.