Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ashes: I

First, the photographic evidence: Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris. I did attend Mass this morning, and it was lovely. LDS missionary experience stood me in good stead, as the liturgy was bilingual, so I could follow along without a hitch really. (Well, not including the Spanish responses. I reverted to the English ones I'm used to.)

The homily was interesting (and brief, as he had to give it in two languages, one after the other), drawing on a passage from Mark:

So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

Thus the Lenten season bears fruit as God works in us, though often we know not how. Our job then becomes one of clearing ground and weeding and watering. Ascesis and penitence are mainly a matter of getting out of God's way, making a place for him to work.

When it came to the imposition of the ashes, they used the formula from the NT: Repent (vertical mark) and believe the Gospel (horizontal).

The parish is in a transitional situation. They built the school first, and are now in the process of raising funds for the church proper, so Mass takes place in the gym area; there are no kneelers, just the vinyl floor over cement slab. This, combined with the short space between the rows of chairs, made kneeling during the Eucharistic prayer an interesting experience, but by golly you were focused!

The only disappointment was the Sanctus. Nobody knew the setting they were using, including the priest and the cantor––the congregation didn't stand a chance. It was in Spanish, so it wasn't in the little booklets, and it didn't sound like it was one the Spanish-speakers had ever heard before. (Again, mission experience came to the rescue: there has never been a disaster in religious music so spectacular as one abortive Zone Conference musical number in which I participated. It was pretty much an a capella invocation of the First Horseman of the Apocalypse––Pestilence himself rode with us that morning. I was hoping the earth could just swallow us all up afterward. Honestly, the mere memory induces literal nausea. The unfortunate Sanctus is no big deal at all.)

Anyway, there will be more meditation forthcoming, but for now a little poetic thought (part one of six):

Ash Wednesday
T.S. Eliot


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

1 comment:

Sherwood family said...

So...hmmm? I don't get it. Can you explain, please?