Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ash Wednesday II (An Apparent Oxymoron)

Their foreheads donned the black ash cross.
A symbol of somber devotion.
A reminder of mortality, frailty.
Lent inherently carries a sober awareness.

Move four inches down from their foreheads 
and a different story appeared to be told.
Mothers with young children whose mouths turned upward in joy.
Blissful, u-shaped lips that seemed to betray 
the imposition of black ash.

At first glance, an apparent contradiction.
One facial feature at battle with the other.
Ashes for denial, discipline, death of self.
Smiles for mirth, felicity, delight.

Can both exist simultaneously?
Black ash cross and teethy smile?
Can a duet of bliss and anguish be sung in a life?
A dance of joy and repentance?

Perhaps that's the blessing of Lent.
Spiritual practices, established by ancients, 
that lead to jubilation.

What if, by entering into the suffering of Christ, 
we find greatest satisfaction?

Maybe, just maybe, in the surrender of Lent 
we are ushered into sweetest communion.

Beauty comes from ashes.
And beauty dwells in the ashes.

This week, as I witnessed this divine juxtaposition 
brought on by Ash Wednesday, 
I was thankful the fullness of triumph in Christ 
is found in 
joyful suffering, 
delightful denial, 
felicitous repentance.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection 
and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death, 
and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

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