The King’s float passes along St. Charles’ Avenue, as the crowd cheers. He waves to the crowd, much like an ancient Roman general marching in triumph through the streets after a victorious battle. That Roman general hears the slave repeating behind him: “Memento mori, sic transit Gloria mundi!”
Memento mori, sic transit Gloria mundi! Memento mori, sic transit Gloria mundi! Remember your death, thus passes the glory of the world. Look around you, you see all this? It will be gone! Remember your death, it is coming!
The precious plastic pearls you yanked from the grip of that 97 year old grandmother will break. The crushed moon pie flung from the 14th float in Orpheus now sours in your stomach. The last sip of chardonnay swirls in the aching temple. The stolen kiss from a masked reveler reveals, well, disappointment.
Memento mori, sic transit Gloria mundi! Remember your death, thus passes the glory of the world! For a moment in Mardi Gras, we forget what will happen, what does happen. We seize the day, carpe diem, gathering our rosebuds while we may. We stuff every slice of King Cake into our mouths. We chase every passing float.
Then we awake. We find ourselves covered in dirty plastic beads with a case of terrible indigestion. Those beads, that food, those unusual moments seemed so important and so real. It seemed so important at the time and now we are left with a little disappointment.
Aren’t you left with a little disappointment? The beads are plastic, not gold. They will break. The rich, fatty foods did not fill you with nourishment. They sicken you at sight. These temporary joys, what we thought was joy, are not real. These temporary pleasures are temporary pleasures.
We are surrounded by temporary pleasures: food that will not nourish us, entertainment that will not uplift us. What we value most: family and friends can be temporary. We know that the strongest families can be broken apart. We know that friends can break our hearts. Even we can let ourselves down. We can disappoint ourselves when we fail at our expectations for ourselves.
So then, what remains? If moth and rust corrupt, what remains? What is true treasure? What bread will nourish us? What relationship will stand the test of time and withstand death itself? Is there hope? Is there a joy that will not end? Is there a love that will not disappoint?
We remember our death. We recognize that each day brings something new. What was popular and important once is now passé. We hear the voice of the slave remind us that all this will pass away, even us. What remains is a “peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” What remains is a cross and a testament to hope that is undaunted by death, confirmed in glorious resurrection.