Ash Wednesday 2022
Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a day when Christians have historically reflected on the fragility of humanity, and the brevity of life.
Or to put it like the psalmist who penned Psalm 144:
Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow...
For millions of Christians around the world, today will be a day to also consider all that has been lost in their lives---to acknowledge all of the many deaths they have experienced.
Like the death of loved ones... the death of dreams... the death of relationships... the death of their beliefs and perhaps even the faith they once held...
And then many will receive the sign of the cross outlined in ash on their forehead as a sign and symbol of their grief---both spoken and unspoken.
Grief is a hard gift that is difficult for us to receive, and even more difficult to know what to do with once we have it.
Recently, I read a poem on grief by the Irish poet and author Padraig O'Tuama, and I thought I would share this stanza, which captures the very essence of grief itself in just a few words:
Today and every other day is now wakedby a grey absence,bones frozen by clutch of dark earth.No other way to stay in touchbesides reliving all that is now not living.Count the calendar to anniversary days,and count the unfair ways of living.
I find that I have been living in grief for a very long time, and I'm guessing many of you have been as well.
We have lost so much over the past couple of years. Some of us have lost so much that it feels as though Spring will never come again to our souls, and that they will remain cold and frozen forever.
And then there are those of us who wonder why we were spared, and our loved ones were not.
Or we sit in the ruins of things we thought would last, but they didn't, and we send our asking prayers to God, trying to understand, seeking answers, hoping to hear something... anything to comfort us.
Maybe we have been met with silence, which is a response in itself, just not the one we desired.
And in the silence, we have wondered how a good God would let such things happen to those whom God supposedly loves.
If this is where you find yourself today, then know that you are in good company because Ash Wednesday is a day for each of us to take stock of our own losses and griefs, and to literally wear them upon us as a sign of our fragility.
But we do all of this with the knowledge that this isn't the end. The frozen ground of winter will thaw, and the bloom of Spring will come.
There is death, and we know it all too well. And then there is Resurrection, which we long for and upon which we cast all our defiant hope.
The worst things are never the last things. Death does not get the last word on the matter.
The last word is "risen," a word spoken at the empty tomb by angels, grieving women, unlettered fishermen, and even Roman soldiers.
A word that you and I can say to ourselves, no matter how softly, in the frozenness of grief on this Ash Wednesday.
We may well remember that “we are dust, and to dust, we will return,” but we also know that this is not the end of us.
We will rise. We will rise.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.