Monday, February 27, 2017

Lent ~ A moveable feast!

“Certain pieces of our journey are moveable feasts.” (Fran Dorff)

There was a time, long, long ago – in fact, in the past century - that I recall an Ash Wednesday liturgy, when the presider at the beginning of his homily asked: “What things in your life have turned into ashes?”  At that moment, I thought I was the only one in the assembly and that he was speaking directly to me. You see, I had just finished three months of a sabbatical time and was struggling with what was to happen next in my life? I asked myself often: Who am I now?

However, before I stepped into that Sabbath time, I experienced a “dying” – a drastic letting go ~ for so much of my life had turned into ashes. I can’t begin to name all the pieces that collided together to create this tectonic shift in my life.

However, here are a few of the seismic movements that created this liminal space of “holy newness” ~
• I left my successful ministry of twelve years of working with a dedicated group of faculty and staff at our nearby college. 
• I left my students of whom I was a mentor for their potential as teachers.
• I left my friends in the town where I worked.
• I had no car, no place to call “home”, no particular ministry, and a whole lot of a blurry identity.

It seemed that so many things to which I had held tightly for purpose and passion had “turned into ashes” and that I was experiencing my own desert. And yet, “cathartically,” there was the phone call from my superior (at just the right time) who told me to take things easy and don’t rush into getting a new ministry. Ah, she didn’t forget me! 

There were the women of my community, who provided me housing in a basement bedroom – of which I lovingly named the “catacombs of St. Agnes.” Ah, they didn’t forget me and provided for my needs.

Then there were openings that came as volunteer opportunities which led to other possibilities for my potential to unfold in such a way that I had no idea of the transformative grace that was now being heaped upon my very spirit. Ah, God had not forgotten me and was loving me into a “holy newness.”

Then, during the liturgy, I remembered coming back to consciousness; (I  believe I missed hearing the homily in total). However, at the end of his reflection, I recall the presider’s final question. It was this: “What in your life is God asking you to turn into ashes?” With that question, I became aware that I was now marked with a cross of ashes, and invited to move out from there with renewed courage, trust, inspiration, hope, creativity, and the grace to honor the ashes that marked my path to Easter joy!

So what is the good news for us on this Ash Wednesday?

Let us ponder:
• What things have turned into ashes in your life?
• What things now is God asking you to turn into ashes?
• May we all have a blessed Lent of Holy Newness!

“But is there a transformation-truth
in this experience of ashes?
Yes, for in the ashes is a story of resurrection.
Yes, for in the ashes is strength about rising.
For remember, you are dust
and to dust you shall return.
For Ash Wednesday is a moveable feast.
A day to celebrate ashes and Easter!
For remember, you are loved,
And to Love you shall return.
For Easter is a moveable feast!”
Sjh 1995

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