GRITTY. A GOOD WORD. Especially for Ash Wednesday. It’s the word that came to mind the very first time I presided at an Ash Wednesday Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes. There is, literally, a gritty connection between the signing thumb of the priest and the forehead of the recipient of this ancient sign. Liturgy and sacraments are often gritty, actually. Earthy would be a good word, too. Intimately, directly connected with life, wherever that life is found. Intimately, directly connected with me and you. Dust and ashes inspirited by the very breath of God remind us that matter matters.
Episcopal priest, Scott Gunn, writes: I used to dislike Ash Wednesday. Intensely. The only thing I looked forward to was the brilliance of Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus. And then a number of years ago I realized something obvious: Ash Wednesday’s poignant reminder of our mortality is a profound gift. That gift, expressed in gritty ashes, is a reminder of an even greater gift: our precious journey in this life. Ash Wednesday reminds us to savor life — to use this brief pilgrimage for things heavenly, not things earthly. It reminds us to live life well — to experience the wholeness, joy, and health of salvation in Jesus Christ.
via I love Ash Wednesday.
Wholeness, joy and health of salvation. Way to go. I could do with a bit of that. I’m glad of reminder and encouragement to live life well. Bound by our forgetfulness it’s so easy to create our own hell. We don’t need any other agent to do that for us. But by the grace of a gritty reminder from time to time we can choose to live life well. It’s my privilege to have time to reflect each day on my own life, and to accompany many hundreds of wonderful, grace-filled people as they reflect upon their own. Grit, wit, great imagination, love, goodness and determination are all features of these lives, but so too are lack of wholeness, sadness and sickness despite our talk of salvation.
We’re just like the lovely damaged souls Jesus encountered every day. Some of us are blind, some lame, some deaf, some dumb, some resigned, some bereaved, some consumed – whilst living – by thoughts of dying, some helpless, some hopeless, some wretched, many crying. All gritty. Inspirited dust and ashes. To each and all Life’s call forgives, reminds, restores. Dust of the earth, adamah, we yet hear the word “Arise”. Ash Wednesday may yet change all our days – past, present and future. Gritty. Real. We’re headed for the desert where we’ll face down our fears. Come, beloved, arise. For, as one of my favourite priests and writers proposes today:
It matters to do more than survive. Life needs to be lived, not just endured. So this Lent I shall not be giving up chocolate, but instead I shall be actively, daily, giving up the dark tunnels of worry and fear, giving up an over-burdening sense of responsibility, giving up working overtime, giving up the bruising anger and resentment that I am entitled to. Instead I shall be living – for forty-six days – deliberately one day at a time, finding every day something to enjoy, someone to celebrate, and something to laugh about. It feels like Friday already. But Sunday is coming. I know it is.
Dearly loved adamah, “dust and ashes”. Fan the flame … “actively, daily” … Arise.