THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
The ash is over, the action begins. However, we do Lent – giving up or adding on things – the desired outcome is to become more aware, more mindful, more conscious of what and how we are living. Being aware of mortality, as I said yesterday, helps sharpen our sense of vitality. So, TS Eliot’s lines on how we live and breathe the past are not just about nostalgia:
Ash on an old man's sleeve, Is all the ash the burnt roses leave. Dust in the air suspended, Marks the place where a story ended, Dust in breathed was a house. (Little Gidding)
So, the past is always present and when we assimilate it we can stop fearing it. I’m told it’s true that we are made of star dust and that all the atoms and elements in our body come from generation after generation of stars over the past 4.5 billion years. The past is continually changing as we become consciously one with it. This is what the phases of our life allow and demand of us so we can be more present to the always now.
I am spending some time in my hermitage on Bere Island, not as much off-line as I should be, but taught and blessed every day by the immediate nowness of things. The weather, interior and external, is as always variable but forms a pattern and in patterns we can usually find a seam of the truth running through it, like a vein of gold in a piece of rock. After a few stormy Atlantic days, a beautiful serenity and peace has returned. Yesterday I ventured outdoors again. Everything seemed more aware of its beauty, more justifiably delighted with itself and happy to be restored to all the other parts of the world with which they were connected. I was grateful to feel welcomed as part of it too.
The astonishing thing is how it all works and how every part allows everything else to be what it is and do its thing in its own way without interfering. Feeding off each other is tolerantly included in this dancing system of birth, flourishing and dying. And bats, which are not my favourite manifestation of the divine, knit the evening together as I walked back along the road, swooping around me and making me feel confident they were not interested in me or my blood. The world is a community.
Robins are cheeky and cocky little things. One was sitting on a branch, singing its redbreast off. Their average life is 13 months but can be as long as 19 years. Aggressively territorial, that’s probably why he was singing so loudly. But I am sure he just loved producing such a free and joyful sound. After all, we are meant to enjoy our work.
Part of the human work is to ponder the meaning of this beauty. We can’t explain it, but we can see the Logos in every part and in the whole. The Word that made everything is present in everything. It is its uniqueness and its connectedness, its order, form and harmony. Its rationality and its sheer, inexplicable divine beauty.
That might be a good thing to do for Lent: to contemplate the innate beauty and harmony of things and cut back on judging.
Lenten Reflections 2021