Showing posts with label Ash_Wednesday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ash_Wednesday. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ashes and love

Dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return.

Dust thou art.


Today is the day that many Christians put ashes on our foreheads to remember our mortality. To remind ourselves and each other that we live in a broken world and we, ourselves, are part of that brokenness.

On this day, we wear ashes, and we talk about dust, two things that on all other days we sweep up, wipe off, discard.

Remember that thou art dust.


This humble stuff, this grit underfoot.

We are dust, and our world is broken, but we are not alone in the dust and ashes. God remains our partner in the ongoing process of creation.

Today, oddly this year, is also Valentine's Day, when most Americans celebrate love.

Pablo Neruda's "Ode to My Socks" is always and ever my favorite love poem, but it seems a particularly fitting one for today's confluences of love and ashes, of the divine and the quotidian.

The /I/ of this poem recognizes the powerful magic of an everyday, humble object created with love.

I slipped my feet
into them
as though into
with threads of
and goatskin.

He resists the temptation to preserve the gift, to put it away, to protect the magic from the hardships of everyday use. Instead, 

Like explorers
in the jungle who hand
over the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
the magnificent
and then my shoes.
Today, remember that thou art dust, but also that thou art love.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


For all my talk about the importance of dwelling in the purple times, I did not attend a service on Ash Wednesday. No ashes marked my forehead. I did not wear my faith publicly today.

In part, this was because of scheduling: Anna had a ballet performance in the morning, and Sofia had gymnastics in the evening. I could have tried harder, though. There are lots of churches in Kalamazoo, and I'm sure one of them was holding a service that I could have gotten myself to.

The bigger reason is that this year I don't need to be reminded that I am dust. I already know. The fragility of human life and the constant possibility of death are real to me in a way that they never have been before.

I am dust; so are you. Precious dust that houses a beautiful soul. Fragile dust animated by breath.

To dust shall we return someday, maybe soon. In the meantime, love.

the purple

Image credit: Michelle Quigley

I love the way that Christianity's liturgical calendar divides the year into seasons that commemorate the events of the gospel. In Roman Catholic and many mainline protestant churches, vestments and altar clothes are coordinated with the colors of the season, and these colors become a visual reminder of where we are in the annual cycle. The persistence of white in our worship spaces after Christmas and Easter have passed on the secular calendar is a powerful call to inhabit the season even while the commercial world places gifts and candy on deep discount to make room for the next holiday.

The white times are our holiest times, our feasts of celebration for the miracles that frame the Christian faith. I love the white times for the family gatherings and the food. But my heart is in the purple. The purple is contemplation. Purple is fasting. Purple is renewed commitment.

Purple is not easy.  Embracing purple time often means making sacrifices and asking oneself hard questions. Purple challenges the people who dwell there.

Today we enter the purple, and I woke up this morning not knowing what my Lenten commitment would be. Most years, I look at my life and try to rebalance what is off kilter. Sometimes this has meant giving up a food (ahem, chocolate) or making a commitment to patience. Usually I hear the call loudly. In the last seven months, my world has been so off kilter that rebalancing has been an ongoing task.

I the absence of a loud call, I commit to listening better in meditation and prayer each day.

"Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust: in certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life." -The Book of Common Prayer

Here are some of the things I'll be reading:
A meditation on Lent and spring.
Daily posts on Observing Lent with a Servant's Heart.
Daily posts from Goshen College.
Sunday sermons on Lent and Easter with Game of Thrones, hyperlinks will appear as the sermons are posted.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

_____ Ash Wednesday

What kind of Ash Wednesday ought we to have? I've been pondering this question since midmorning. As I was leaving the tea shop after elevenses, a woman responded to the smudgy cross on my forehead with, "Happy Ash Wednesday!" and a smile. I mumbled, "Thank you" and kept walking, but the moment has stuck with me all day. The image of that woman is as fresh in my mind as that of the monk who had imposed my ashes during Terce.

Ash Wednesday isn't meant to be a day of joyful celebration. Some celebrate mass, many impose ashes, a few observe a fast. So, what should we say to each other on this day that marks the beginning of Lent? What is it that we wish for one another on this holy day that mainstream America has forgotten?

I wish you a Meaningful Ash Wednesday and a Meditative Lent that leads you to a Fruitful Easter Season and a Transformative Pentecost.