I was born into a Catholic family, and by the time I was a few days old, I was baptized into the Catholic faith.
Little Polly Cecile, swaddling… in the arms of my Godparents Hilda and Bob Wehrman. I do not remember that day, one bit. But I have seen the photographic evidence. They sprinkled Holy Water on my head. From that point onward, I was a member of the C-Crew.
My early years were filled with Catholic Masses, every day. Sit. Kneel. Stand. A Catholic grade school, and then on to high school, at the very Catholic Chaminade-Julienne. Nuns, Priests, Brothers. And Fish on Fridays.
So with all that Catholic in my background, I would be remiss if I did not remind you that today is Ash Wednesday.
You see… way back in those biblical times …. it was common to sprinkle ashes on the head as a sign of repentance and humility.
In modern times, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.
A few words about Lent. It is not to be confused with Lint, such as that which is found in the belly button. Unfortunately, I harbored this confusion when I was very young. Things made very little sense to me then…. and this very curious observation of Lint by everyone.
But back to Ash Wednesday. According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan.
So…. in modern times …. Lent sort of became a way as a mirroring this …. fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. These days… it is a lot softer and gentler, I suppose.
The logistics, follow a routine where there is a blessing of ashes….. which were made by burning the palm branches…. that were blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday. THEN, the ashes are placed on the foreheads of the believing peoples and THEY are blessed. And when the Lentees are blessed, they are nudged with this …. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. That is a whole LOT of blessings and dusting.
The ritual reminds us of our human mortality. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.
It is true. Our human bodies turn into something else. The physical part of us… turns into molecular-other-things. The body breaks down, and transforms to other stages of mass and energy. You can call it dying… or you can call it moving on.
Because… there is that other part of us. The Spirit. That energy goes on too. We can see what happens to the physical part of us. We lay our loved ones “to rest,” as they say.
But we cannot “see” the Spirit part. It continues on, though. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, you see. So our Spirit energy transcends. We move on.
So…. the first part of Ash Wednesday… is the dust to dust, deal.
The next part, I think, should go… “Remember that you are beautiful light. And to light you shall return.”
One more part. We can be that light every day…
Let it shine right through the dust. Every chance we get.
“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Collection)
“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”
― Bram Stoker, Dracula
“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
― Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968