Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 Days of Lent: Day One

Ash Wednesday!

I have several friends, good nonbelievers all, who love Christmas. They decorate, listen to Christmas music and buy generous gifts for friends and wrap them so as to resemble little works of art. They truly have the spirit of the day within them. But not only do they not believe in the divinity of Christ or the existence of God but they seem offended by such concepts. I myself don't have quite the same enthusiasm for Christmas. I feel I should. I reflexively think of it as my favorite holiday of the year, yet in actuality, it just seems to bring a lot of additional obligations on my time and attention. I have a friend whose family threw some of the best Christmas parties I've had the luck to attend but now she, after a bitter divorce, flat out says she hates Christmas.

I think of my festive faithless friends every year around this time because I love Ash Wednesday. I love getting dirt smeared on my forehead. Today it looked less like a cross than a running man. I love seeing who else has ashes on their forehead, the other marked. I enjoy talking about the logistics of getting ashes with other people. "St. Pat's is giving out ashes all day. You can be in and out like that, unless you go at lunchtime." I believe I gave this advice to four different people today, including someone at work I overheard mumbling "Ashes. Everyone's got ashes today. Gotta go get ashes..."

It's almost 10:00 at night and I still have the dark smear on my forehead. It almost seems a shame to wash it off. This evening I walked past a church and thought about going in and getting more ashes. I could see the priest's moment of confusion. "You already have ashes, my son." "I know. But I'd like some more." Perhaps you could spend the entire day going from church to church getting more and more holy soot smeared on your head. At what point would they stop? Would it before you looked like you were part of a minstrel show? Would you be taken aside and lectured on the deadly sin of gluttony? I imagine a priest would refuse those who went back for seconds on communion, but are ashes one to a customer?


Jeff G. said...

Your post reminds of a Pearls Before Swine song I like very much:

"The Jeweler"
By Tom Rapp

The jeweler has a shop on the corner of the boulevard
In the night, in small spectacles, he polishes old coins
He uses spit and cloth and ashes
He makes them shine with ashes
He knows the use of ashes
He worships God with ashes

The coins are often very old by the time they reach the jeweler
With his hands and ashes he will try the best he can
He knows that he can only shine them
Cannot repair the scratches
He knows that even new coins have scars so he just smiles
He knows the use of ashes
He worships God with ashes

In the darkest of the night both his hands will blister badly
They will often open painfully and the blood flows from his hands
He works to take from black coin faces the thumbprints from so many ages
He wishes he could cure the scars
When he forgets he sometimes cries
He knows the use of ashes
He worships God with ashes

Just thought I'd share that...

the hanged man said...

Thanks Jeff. Very cool. This is one of the cases I would make of song lyrics as poetry.

Iva said...

Actually, this post immediately brought Oliver Twist to my mind. "Please, Sir, may I have some more?"
I am a bad Mother, btw, here it is 12 days into Lent and I had forgotten about your daily blog until Erin mentioned it yesterday. Forgive me...I'm playing catch up.

the hanged man said...

No problem. That's the beauty of a blog as opposed to email or facebook. You can read at your leisure.