In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell...
From Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot
There is much beauty in the world. Eden echos. Drops an iridescent feather. Weaves a hummingbird nest by the bathroom window. The Garden calls. Love elevates things of low consequence. A dandelion in the palm of a child becomes the rarest orchid.
Stiff hearts miss this.
Rebels take no notice.
Lent begins today. The antidote for stiff hearts, blind eyes and souls who have lost the smell of the sea, lives where God has become diminished, lost His distinct ring tone.
The Catholics cremate last year's leftover Palm Sunday fronds and mark themselves with the ashes. When I was young I was so enamored of the ashen cross on my forehead that when it wore off I renewed it courtesy of my father's ashtray and the remnants of Camels unfiltered. Lent is us in ashes, unfiltered, our guard down, excuses incinerated, bending the knee.
Those penitent ashes call to me in this season. Lent is spring cleaning time for our souls. Lent is an opportunity to ask for help with our less flattering habits in a way that makes Christ the focus. Time to burn last year's mistakes with sorrow. Time to also walk away from last year's hallelujahs. Let God remember our lifted hands. Praise lives in the immaculate air of Heaven forever but here, in our imperfect world, our once green palms age and crack with time. We have to cut fresh boughs to lay in the way He will come.
Ash Wednesday (dies cinerum or day of ashes) makes room for penance and for praise, like the ashes of incense left when the smoke ascends. It is day one in a period of self denial and God-thoughtfulness that remembers Christ's forty days in the wilderness separated unto God and sustained by His fellowship. It is living the story of the Cross. It is a sorrow for the sin that required such sacrificial love to roll the stones from our tombs.
It is the remembrance of that gargantuan trade Isaiah prophesied over us: To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified. Isaiah 61
We bow our heads, offer Him room and branches leaf out fresh and green. Repentant fruits bloom. Our lost lilacs breathe out perfume.
These next forty days and during the Holy Week to follow, you might build an altar and meet with the Lord for whatever time you are able to devote to that purpose.
I keep a devotional and a box of colored pencils in my car. I draw and put my thoughts right in that book. You might buy a beautiful candle and light it in the evening as a special offering. Listen to music that you can share with Him. Find a movie that makes you focus on Him. Journal Lent. Find a jar and begin to set aside an Easter offering.
Practice a day of silence each week or during part of your day. Fast a meal and spend the time discovering Him in His own words. My personal favorites, Praying the Hours (God talks to me at 3AM) and daily Communion.
The Holy Ghost will draw you to the right spiritual practice.
Whatever you do- Embrace the Journey to Jerusalem.
Jesus will meet you on the road.
There will be bread.
The Upper Room has a daily devotion available.
My favorite is Contemplating the Cross, just made available again on line.
There are some wonderful movies we have enjoyed in this season. Some of you may want to share, by way of a comment, ones you or your family have enjoyed.
The Hiding Place
The Edges of the Lord
Saving Grace with Tom Conti
Hummingbirds Nesting By Our Window, offered by Cheryl and Damion Haley, Arizona