Tag Archives: Ash Wednesday

Love – In Small Doses for the Sin Sick Soul # 1

 

Crosswalk

Wait

for the sign

to change

step off the edge

For your reflection: What signs in your life have changed, which  call you to step off the edge of certainty and comfortable beliefs?

Note to readers:  This blog is part of a series of Lenten “short takes” on the themes of lent, which follow more or less the lectionary Scripture lessons for this season. Like a note you find tucked under the bark of a tree, a lozenge to let melt in your mouth, an amulet to wear around your neck, I hope these little reflections may hold a small dose of truth or comfort  or challenge for your life on the way to Easter.

In the abundance of words which inundate us daily, it is easy for the message of redemption to be buried under the latest disaster, outrage or scandal. Likewise the familiar stories and passages of lent may grow dull and trite to ears and minds already stuffed with words.

I have noticed in my work as spiritual director that it is hard for many of us to take in the goodness and grace, as well as the challenge of the story of Jesus and God’s redeeming love. Perhaps we need to titrate the gospel. Sometimes a well- timed, tiny dose, carefully administered, may be what the Physician orders for our healing. And so, slowly, we build up our tolerance for love and more and more joy finds the faith in us through which to invade our being.

Dose titration:  adjustment of the dose until the medication has achieved the desired effect

Ashes to Ashes

One by one they come forward. I press my thumb into the black sooty ash. On the forehead I make the sign of an ancient form of execution. Looking them in the eyes I say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” For some I have to stand on tiptoe to make the mark. For the children I bend down to sign their lifted brows.

After eleven years among them, I know these people – their pain, their struggles, losses, hopes, and dreams. I love them. They come to place themselves before the altar and ask for this – this sincerity, this frank acknowledgement of death. They come to receive the smudge that says they know they have fallen short and they are sorry.

In a culture which denies death, sin, and personal and corporate responsibility for wrong doing, I am moved by these who come to stand before God and one another in radical honesty. Instead of wrinkle crème and hair growth tonics, they wear the sign that says they know they will die, and because of that, and because life is good, they want to live it well.

This never fails to shake me to core – people coming together in the dead of winter, here and there, all over the world to bow their foreheads for the ash, to be told they are going to die, and to lift their faces once again toward the warm sun of redemption.

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into eternal life … Book of Common Prayer
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