This past Shrove Sunday, after mass, we burned the palms from last year to be used for this year’s ashes at mass today.
**I’d like to add an addendum to this post. I talk about churchy stuff on occasion, and while I don’t mention Jesus here, he is, y’know…strongly implied. I write all of this realizing that the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances these days don’t identify as being Christian…maybe you are atheists, or Deists, or identify more with the SBNR crowd…and I know some of you are even openly hostile to religion of any kind.
But, now is the time when many of us start to think about spring cleaning. So, maybe when I say God, you could put in to place whatever you find important and want to focus on. Or think about who you are grateful to, whenever you feel gratitude.**
I don’t recollect attending church services as a kid on ash Wednesday. We may or may not have; it doesn’t stand out in my mind. A couple of years ago, once we started attending church regularly again, the first ash Wednesday mass had a profound effect on me. I remember getting teary on the way back to the pew, after the ashes were placed on me.
It wasn’t a sad moment, or one full of fear…I remember that for a quick moment, everything came in to sharp focus. Important things were important, and the rest dissolved to a soft presence in the background.
It feels a bit silly to even write that; articulating something of the soul is always going to feel clunky and awkward, I suppose.
With fifty percent of the Dallman Littles under the weather today, I am hoping that we’re all well enough to go to mass this evening.
I’ve been thinking about how I want to observe Lent this year. I never felt much drive or call to ‘give something up,’ although I realize that is a very common way of observing the season. It always felt a bit false or too temporary, or needlessly punitive to me. I had a fairly lengthy talk with Matthew the other night about the idea of mortification and what it means and what the theology (not just popular piety) about it says.
I’ll distill a very long, round-about conversation to the idea that mortification during Lent shouldn’t be about just giving up fudge for forty days, only to go back to it with a vengeance on Easter Sunday, but that whatever you do should be in the vein of simplifying or bringing you closer to God. So, maybe you give up fudge because you feel an unhealthy dependence on it, and then at Easter-tide, you still may eat it. However, now you are changed. Instead of relying on that fudge in an unhealthy way; as a crutch or a substitute, now, hopefully, you can enjoy it as the gift that it is. So, that might mean eating the fudge less, or giving it some focus and attention that wasn’t there before.
Your habits have changed.
I like that idea of this season of renewal being about changing or improving habits, of bringing things in to sharp focus once again.
What I’ve settled on for this year, actually, what Matthew and I have decided to do together is a household ‘purge’ as we clean this season. Both of us have been distracted by our perennial problem of too-much-stuff-too-little-house. Truth be told our house is great; there are many people the world over who would be grateful for a place like this. But when it gets so cluttered and messy, it is hard to see that. Instead I harp on needing a bigger, better place (which we’re in no place to afford any time soon), or I get grumpy with Matt and the kids about all their stuff. Then I get upset because I could sure use more work space…and, well, you see the spiral that I cascade down. Very quickly our modest little place is not a gift, but a place to escape from. That doesn’t sound like what home should be!
So! As we move from room to room in the coming weeks, doing day to day cleaning, we’ve both resolved to toss or donate what we don’t use and don’t have need of. We will also find a couple of days to do a more thorough cleaning of a couple of particularly beastly areas. What remains will (hopefully) bring once again in to focus that which we truly need, that which we find beautiful or is sentimental, or brings us enjoyment, and so can be enjoyed and valued and cared for as the gift that it is to have these things.
Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.