To bow the head
In sackcloth and in ashes,
Or rend the soul,
Such grief is not Lent’s goal;
But to be led
To where God’s glory flashes,
His beauty to come nigh,
To fly, to fly,
To fly where truth and light do lie.
For is not this
The fast that I have chosen? –
The prophet spoke –
To shatter every yoke,
The grievous bands to loosen,
Oppression put to flight,
To fight, to fight,
To fight till every wrong’s set right.
And peace will show their faces
To those who feed
The hungry in their need,
And wrongs redress,
Who build the old waste places,
And in the darkness shine.
Divine it is when all combine!
Then shall your light
Break forth as doth the morning;
Your health shall spring,
The friends you make shall bring
God’s glory bright,
Your way through life adorning
And love shall be the prize.
Arise! and make a paradise!
-P. Dearmer (1867-1936), hymn: White Lent
“Mary Magdalene thought the resurrected Christ was a gardener because Jesus still had the dirt from his own tomb under his nails. Of course, the depictions in churches of the risen Christ never show dirt under his nails; they make him look more like a wingless angel than a gardener. It’s as if he needed to be cleaned up for Easter visitors so he looked more impressive and so no one would be offended by the truth. But then what we all end up with is a perverted idea of what resurrection looks like. My experience, however, is that the God of Easter is a God with dirt under his nails.
Resurrection never feels like being made clean and nice and pious like in those Easter pictures. I would have never agreed to work for God if I had believed God was interested in trying to make me nice or even good. instead, what I subconsciously knew, even back then, was that God was never about making me spiffy: God was about making me new.
New doesn’t always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy. New looks like recovering alcoholics. New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it. New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage to not mention when I’m right. New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway. New is the thing we never saw coming-never even hoped for-but ends up being what we needed all along.
“It happens to all of us,” I concluded that Easter Sunday morning. “God simply keeps reaching down in to the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back into life over and over.”
-Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
-Robert Robinson, Hymn: Come Thou Fount
“Above all else, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
It is an irrefutable law: one needs to be dispossessed of the possessions that possess — before one can be possessed of God.
Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God. God only comes to fill the empty places and kenosis is necessary – to empty the soul to know the filling of God.
“It is helpful, I think, to be reminded that we are dust.
It seems crucial to take this reminder with us as we move through life–through successes, disappointments, surprises, distractions, tragedy.
For Christians, it is also a truth to help us with the vast and terrible events of Holy Week. The season begins with ashes of Ash Wednesday. On this day, foreheads are marked with a bold and ashen cross of dust, recalling both our history and our future, invoking repentance, inciting stares. Marked with the Cross, we are Christ’s own: pilgrims on a journey that proclaims death and resurrection all at once.
The journey through Lent into the light and darkness of Holy Week is for those made in dust who will return to dust, those willing to trace the breath that began all of life to the place where Christ breathed his last. It is a journey that expends everything within us.”
“I can think about Advent, about expectancy. It holds some concerns, but to be impregnated with new life is a rather hopeful subject. During Advent we rejoice as we open ourselves to the mysteries of the marriage of heaven to earth.
But in Lent we come to know that the only way to our own healing and wholeness comes paradoxically through dismembering–an appallingly painful process which life offers us, ready or not, and which Lent gives us the form and meaning for. “They have pierced my hands and my feet, they have numbered all my bones,” We engage dismemberment and atonement so that we maybe transformed through the Easter mysteries and arrive at “at-one-ment.”
-Gertrud Mueller Nelson, “To Dance with God”
Lord our God,
on this eve of Ash Wednesday,
we ask that You bless our celebration
of the feast of Mardi Gras.
Bless our table, our food and wine,
as well as all of us
who sit about this feast day table.
Come, Gracious Lord,
and join us at this feast
as we prepare to join Your Son, Jesus,
be prayerfully entering into
these forty days of Lent.
As the food and wine of this feast
give nourishment and strength
to our bodies and spirits,
so may we, during this coming season of Lent,
give strength and support to each other
and to all who accompany us
on this pilgrimage of prayer
from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.
As this Lenten roadway causes us to reflect
upon the death of our Lord,
may we also remember His victory
in His resurrection from the dead.
May this dinner
on the eve of day of ashes
be a joyful foretaste
of the rebirth and new life that is the promise
of the feast of the Resurrection.
Together, for the final time before these forty days,
let us sing the ancient song of joyful victory: Alleluia!
-Edward Hays, Prayers for the Domestic Church