Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Lent 2005

I was always a bit amazed at the large turnouts of college students to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. Something about embracing mortality and beginning all over again inheres in the ritual of the day. I love the reflective tone and the somber (not morbid) atmosphere that pervades the day in most churches. We all live with fantasies of wiping out the past and turning a new page. As we say so often these days, "its time to move on." Surely some of that is a dangerous denial of history, both individual and communal. Yet it also corresponds to the meaning of Lent. God does put our past behind us and invites us to begin over again. We do have to live, mired in old ideas and ancient personal hurts. Death is not just the last moment of material life, but is something that joins us always on our journeys. Ideas, memories and other debris from the past can die off and cease to hold us hostage. Taking ashes tomorrow may be a strong ritual way of setting ourselves on the new course. Meanwhile, Happy Mardi Gras until mid-night.