Byron Smith has just linked to a post on Ash Wednesday and Lent which expresses, much more fully and eloquently, a lot of what I was groping towards in my post last week “Remembering that We are But Dust”. The author admits that Lent can be an occasion for dualistic asceticism, but rightly understood, it is a rebuke to everything of that sort, a call to live in the body, not to indulge in pretensions of being anything more than we are.
It is the occasion for an affirmation of who we are, not, ultimately, a plea to transcend our mortal condition. We can live in our bodies, in this world, seeing ourselves more compassionately and thereby are moved to perform works of love, without conditions or demands, for our fellow-sufferers. The first day of Lent is an occasion not for a form of world-denial, but loving acceptance of flawed reality, of imperfection. It is a rebuke to all separatism, escapism, and self-hatred. And of course, as it points us to the Christ-event, Lent ends, as it beings, with an affirmation of our creaturely existence: as Christ rose from the dead, so will our bodies, to live in a New Jerusalem – not an ethereal “heaven.”
Let the ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us of our mortality; let our repentance be the occasion for a reprieve from neurosis and anxiety; and let us patiently hope for the vindication of creation of which Christ’s resurrection was the first fruits. Let us live in the world.
A fantastic and beautiful meditation, well worth reading as we enter the second week of Lent.