Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday 2009

Ever since Sunday, I have had Lenten hymns floating through my head. “O sacred head, now wounded ….” “Did e’er such love and sorrow meet ….” "Sorrow and love flow mingled down...." For a variety of reasons, I was eager to embrace this Ash Wednesday and to embark on the season of Lent.

Today’s liturgy did everything I needed to move me into Lent.

Our priest has a fine liturgical sense. That was a blessing.

Her homily focused on Psalm 51 – supposedly written after David “took” Bathsheba and had Uriah murdered. She focused on the fact that it’s God’s love that sustains the covenant. We may feel broken and contrite – indeed, we should feel broken and contrite, but it is the love of God – and God’s grace toward us that keeps us alive in spirit.

Then on to the imposition of ashes.

A very few of you have been reading this blog since the early days. You know how I “took a sabbatical” from the Episcopal Church in 2006 … then slowly worked my way back in … sitting on the back rows. That’s changed. I now sit on the very front row, epistle side. I do it for a reason similar to the reason that some of our older African American parishioners now sit near the front, when they had been relegated to the rear pews many decades ago.

So there I was on the first row. And I was one of the first to receive the imposition of ashes.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I’ve been moving into a penitential mode over the last several days, and those words were welcome. Riveting. Stunning. Bracing. Humbling.

Then I returned to my seat in the first row, devoutly kneeling.

I was in my prayers … opening myself to the Spirit … seeking what I am called to do in this Lent. But I could not help hearing my priest speaking to person after person after person as she moved along the altar rail: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The sheer repetition of it was powerful.

She is our priest. She will minister to us. She will marry some of us. She will bury some of us.

There was something about hearing her say those words so repetiously – "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” – that were very powerful. I expect she will bury some of us, and I will remember when she said those words.

I also took some comfort in the words, as she shared her creature-ness with us. We are all of us dust. She no more than we.

Kneeling so close to the altar, hearing those words spoken again and again, I also found an antidote, a balm against my own hubris, arrogance, and self-sufficiency.

I act like I am so very independent. I behave as if I am so strong and self-sufficient.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The words echoed deeply for me. I am not strong or sufficient. I am dust, and to dust I shall return. The words were important for me to hear.

I am grateful for the Ash Wednesday liturgy, and how it recalls me to my creatureliness.

I am dust, and to dust I shall return.


Blogger Ann said...

Thanks Lisa - powerful words indeed - but it is also stardust from which we come and to which we will go. Dance on!

2/25/2009 9:37 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Ah, my friend. Those are comforting words!

But I don't feel like stardust. I feel like the dust of the earth.

Alas, dancing doesn't seem to be in my vocabulary.

2/25/2009 9:40 PM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

Wow, Lisa, what a powerful reflection. I have noticed the power in something being repeated over and over myself, but you have articulated that power so fabulously here.

I'll tell you what I think of about that dust...not stardust...not just the dust of the earth, but humus. Something that promotes growth, made from the breakdown of rotting things.

Despite the best efforts of funeral directors, our mortal bodies will first rot and putrefy, then break down into humus, and feed the grass, the trees, the shrubs. Lent for me is a time to begin to let things grow from the compost heap of my flaws and foibles.

But despite my somberness on this day, I still can't help but get a chuckle in the Psalm in the Ash Wednesday service, Psalm 103, when I am reminded I'm "butt dust"!

2/26/2009 1:07 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, KirkE, for your reflections on humus. You and Ann are doing a good tag-team of reflections.

And "butt dust"? LOL!

2/26/2009 7:02 AM  
Blogger --Susan said...

Thanks for the fodder.

2/26/2009 3:28 PM  
Blogger KJ said...

Excellent post, Lisa.

This Ash Wednesday was the first time in my 4 years within TEC that I got to go to the service (We live in the 'burbs, and I typically can't make it into the big, bad city during the week.). I'm so glad I made it. The liturgy was moving, and as opposed the Flentrop organ, which I love, being used, all was a capella, which filled the big space of the Holy Box, so ugly it's beautiful, in a wondrous way, and was the perfect entrance into Lent.

2/27/2009 5:40 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

That sounds like a marvelous service, KJ, and I'm glad it worked on your soul.

There was no music in our service. On Sundays, I attend the 10:30 (Rite II) service, because I need the music -- despite the fact that I prefer the poetry in the Rite I service at 8:00. But 8:00 has no music.

When I arrived Wed. and saw the service leaflet, I was rather disappointed there would be no music. But somehow it was just right. The lack of music unscored the spareness of the liturgy, and it was right.

I'm not saying one way or the other is "right." Just that I'm surprised the absence of music Wed. felt meet and right to me.

2/27/2009 5:57 PM  
Blogger KJ said...

I like the "jarring" experience at the beginning of Lent (Though life provides plenty of that.), and the absence of music (or organ). On Wednesday, when I went to the font and found it empty, I was abruptly reminded, "It's Lent."

2/28/2009 10:57 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I like it too, KJ. Though "like" may not be the right word; more like I appreciate it. I gather that's what you're saying, too.

2/28/2009 11:44 PM  
Blogger Fred Preuss said...

Except that nobody every lynched you for going to a White church.
Why bother smearing grime on your heads? Is this another attempt at feeling more medieval and ancient and authentic?

3/04/2009 6:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for adding to my site stats, Fred. Always lovely to have you visit.

3/04/2009 6:10 PM  
Blogger IT said...

You have to feel sorry for this guy ... what a sad, empty life.

Did you see what I said at friends about compline? Even I can get that kinda thing....


3/05/2009 12:05 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Yes, I saw it IT. Loved it.

3/05/2009 8:21 AM  

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