About Reading Through Lent
Ashes, ashes, all fall down. How could I have forgotten? Didn't I see the heavens wiped shut just yesterday, on the road walking? Didn't I fall from the dark of the stars to these senselit and noisome days? The great ridged granite millstone of time is illusion, for only the good is real; the great ridged granite millstone of space is illusion, for God is spirit and worlds his flimsiest dreams: but the illusions are almost perfect, are apparently perfect for generations on end, and the pain is also, and undeniably, real. The pain within the millstones' pitiless turning is real, for our love for each other--for world and all the products of extension--is real, vaulting, insofar as it is love, beyond the plane of the stones' sickening churn and arcing to the realm of spirit bare. And you can get caught holding one end of a love, when your father drops, and your mother; when a land is lost, or a time, and your friend blotted out, gone, your brother's body spoiled, and cold, your infant dead, and you dying: you reel out love's long line alone, stripped like a live wire loosing its sparks to a cloud, like a live wire loosed in space to longing and grief everlasting.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm (Harper & Row, 1977)
Whoever on that medieval day
decided that it had to be ashes
to sign the season, was in touch with death
but he’d forgotten the place of red earth,
remembered in the gut by those who know
dirt mixed with the blood of woman giving birth.
The flesh of one so full of hope cries out,
comes pushing now the growing, wintered well
in her womb, wailing songs of the longing
for life and love and gentleness of green
and a springtime sun to be welcoming
for us, to warm us out of these our tombs
to bid us light and peace and graciousness.
So we are signed with earth – with death and birth.
Mary Claire van Orsdal, OSU from A Lent Sourcebook LTP