Reflections Ash Wednesday 2013

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"There is a certain innocence about beginning, with its
excitement and promise of something new. 

But this will emerge only
through undertaking some voyage into the unknown.

 And no one can
foretell what the unknown might yield. 

There are journeys we have begun
that have brought us great inner riches and refinement; 

but we had to
travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering. 

Had we known at the beginning
 what the journey would demand of us,
 we might never have set out. 

Yet the rewards and gifts became vital to who we are. 

Through the innocence of beginning we are often seduced into growth.
When the heart is ready for a fresh beginning, unforeseen things
can emerge. 

And in a sense, this is exactly what a beginning does. It is
 an opening for surprises. 

Surrounding the intention and the act of
beginning, there are always exciting possibilities. …

 beginnings have their own mind, 
and they invite and unveil new gifts and arrivals in
one’s life. 

Beginnings are new horizons that want to be seen; … 
What is the new horizon in you that wants to be seen?"

John O’Donohue, from To Bless This Space Between Us

 You have travelled too fast over false ground;

Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up

To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain

When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,

Taking time to open the well of colour

That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone

Until its calmness can claim you.

John O’Donohue

Two fine reflections on "Entering Lent" from Fr. Ron Rolheiser from here.

and here :"The Ashes Of Lent"

 Opening Stanza from Choruses from "The Rock"

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965),

The Rock  (1934)


The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,

The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.

O perpetual revolution of configured stars,

O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,

O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying

The endless cycle of idea and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;

Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,

All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,

But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.          

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.

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 Loss and Gain

When I compare 
What I have lost with what I have gained, 
What I have missed with what attained, 
Little room do I find for pride. 

I am aware 
How many days have been idly spent; 
How like an arrow the good intent 
Has fallen short or been turned aside. 

But who shall dare 
To measure loss and gain in this wise? 
Defeat may be victory in disguise; 
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wilderness Time

Christ In The Wilderness Stanley Spencer

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This is the wilderness time,

when every path is obscure

and thorns have grown around the words of hope.

Be the wings of our strength, O God,

in this time of wilderness waiting.

This is the time of stone, not bread,

when even the sunrise feels uncertain

and everything tastes of bitterness.

Be the wings of our strength, O God,

in this time of wilderness waiting.

This is the time of ashes and dust,

when darkness clothes our dreams

and no star shines a guiding light.

Be the wings of our strength, O God,

in this time of wilderness waiting.

This is the time of treading life,

waiting for the swells to subside and for the chaos to clear.

Be the wings of our strength, O God,

in this time of wilderness waiting.

Keri Wehlander from “600 Blessings and Prayers from around the world” compiled by Geoffrey Duncan, Twenty-Third Publications, 2005.

" If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day."

Leonard Cohen

 St Brendan on his boat
 Image source

Camille T. Dungy 

I will enter you as hope enters me,   
through blinding liquid, light of rain, and I   
will stay inside until you send me out;   

I will stay inside until you ground me.  
We cannot outrun the rain. 
So many summers I have tried. 
So many summers.   

But when the rumble calls after the spark   
there can be no escape. 
No outstripping the drench soak, 
the wet sheath, the water caul.   
This is more than you want to hear.  
Much more than I want to tell you. 

Tabernacle transporting my life from the desert,
the faith I am born and reborn into,   
You, rescuer, deliverer of rain.

This poem is taken from my post here Good Friday People and Reflections on Sheila Cassidy. It's a poem that's just as good for Ash Wednesday too.

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And so we must begin to live again,
We of the damaged bodies
And assaulted mind.

Starting from scratch with the rubble of our lives
And picking up the dust
Of dreams once dreamt.

And we stand there, naked in our vulnerability,
Proud of starting over, fighting back,
But full of weak humility

At the awesomeness of the task.
We, without a future,
Safe, defined, delivered

Now salute you God.
Knowing that nothing is safe,
Secure, inviolable here.

Except you,

And even that eludes our minds at times.
And we hate you
As we love you,

And our anger is as strong
as our pain,
Our grief is deep as oceans,
And our need as great as mountains.

So, as we take our first few steps forward
into the abyss of the future,
We would pray for
Courage to become what we have not been before

And accept it,
And bravery to look deep within our souls to find
New ways.

We did not want it easy God,
But we did not contemplate
That it would be quite this hard,
This long, this lonely.

So, if we are to be turned inside out, and upside down,
With even our pockets shaken,
just to check what's rattling
And left behind,
We pray that you will keep faith with us,
And we with you,

Holding our hands as we weep,
Giving us strength to continue,
And showing us beacons
Along the way
To becoming new.

We are not fighting you God,
Even if it feels like it,
But we need your help and company,
As we struggle on.
Fighting back
And starting over.

Come Back To Me 
Beautiful hymn by
John Michael Talbot


 Come back to me with all your heart.
Don't let fear keep us apart.

Trees do bend, though straight and tall
so must we, to others' call.

Long have I waited for your coming,
home to me and living, deeply our new lives.

The wilderness will lead you
to your heart where I will speak.

Integrity and justice,
With tenderness, you shall know.

Long have I waited for your coming,
home to me and living, deeply our new lives.

You shall sleep secure with peace;
faithfulness will be your joy.

Long have I waited for your coming,
home to me and living, deeply our new lives.


Marked by Ashes

 Walter Brueggemann 

    Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day
This day a gift from you.
This day like none other you have ever given,

 or we have ever received.

This Wednesday dazzles us 
with gift and newness and possibility.
    This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day,
 for we are already halfway home :

halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
 but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes.
We begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;

We can taste our mortality 
as we roll the ash around on our tongues.
We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, 
only because our every Wednesday of ashes
 anticipates your Easter victory 
over that dry, flaky taste of  death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you
 your Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,

Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
 and justice and peace and generosity.
We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

Thomas Merton's view of Lent remembers the original meaning of Lent as
the "Ver sacrum, the church's 'Sacred Spring' in which the catechumens
were prepared for their baptism, less a season of punishment so much as
 one of healing.

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