Dream word – HOPE
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” NKJV
Of ashes and eye lashes, all curled high on ‘Expectation Day’
In the Western Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs, excluding Sundays, forty days before Easter. Because it is dependent on the lunar date of Easter, it falls on a different date each year and can occur as early as February 4th or as late as March 10th. The day of my writing this Night Whisper, is indeed Ash Wednesday and though the day is celebrated by a number of Christian denominations, it is especially utilised by Roman Catholics.
Having been brought up as a Roman Catholic, one of my most earliest religious recollections is that of being taken from school to church, again, and above the violent olfactory charge of burning incense, hearing the voice of a Bishop, marking all the lined up child supplicants, with a black grey cross on their forehead, his old and warn out voice, full of tired words echoing like an ethereal and disembodied warning, sliding down the cold brick walls and perching like black crows upon all the twelve stations of the cross, “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return, remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return, remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return…”
Ash Wednesday is in effect a day of repentance, marking the beginning of the 40 days of preparation for Holy Week. I have always found it a piously pompous, marked and miserable day and don’t ask me how, but almost always in my childhood, its internal tone and tenor was always in direct contrast with the outside weather, where the sun seemed to be always shining. Puberty, play, life, light and love were all calling. Skeletons and dust, were only the stuff of then, harmless hammer horror movies, graveyards in the grey dusk light, and the indeterminable shadows which inhabited the hushed sentences of sad adults, whispering regrets and wiping quiet tears from their sad and mascara marked faces, always turned away from the children. It was the adults who had death and regret. It was we children who had hope and a future. What was this Bishop trying to do to me with these words? “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”
Whenever God the Holy Spirit at first removes the cataracts of self justification from our eyes and all our many sins come into focus before our unprepared and peering peepers, the hurricane of horror, the gale of grief and the storms of sorrow which come upon us, are initially so powerful, that they bowl us over into the dirt of our past lives and all we can do, all we must do, is abhor ourselves for a while, covering our miserable heads in dust and ashes. This is not a religious practice, no, it is a consequence of true and spiritual, ophthalmic surgery. We see ourselves in sin, we abhor ourselves, we repent and when we do this, God touches the forehead of our minds in this, and He does it, where no ceremony can. The words, “remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return” have no place in this particular, forehead touch divine.
When repentance is allowed to have its place and allowed to have its work, not only is our sight more keener but the trepanned tears of our broken heart, pour through our now opened mind, somehow miraculously releasing the love of God into our limbs, His active life pouring into our astonished little legs, so much so, that the command to stand upon our feet, is heard, is obeyed and is speedily actioned. Sure, the bridegroom is away and fasting shall occur, but now, they are not fasts of preparation to be marked by words of death and signs of hopeless ashes, but fastings of longing, all marked by the shining and oily hope of anointed heads, cleaned faces, bright eyes, which brim full of the forgiveness of the Son of God Himself and oooh yes, of eyelashes, yes of eyelashes, clean and curled up high to heaven, like palm fronds raised in happy expectation. “Remember man, that art loved and to Him that loves thee, thou shalt return, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
I think that Ash Wednesday should be clothed in Orange and instead of ashes rubbed into the forehead with worrying words, each child should be given a green topped shining carrot, which as we all know is the very best of vegetables for the preservation of eyesight. After all, you never see a rabbit wearing glasses. I wonder then if Ash Wednesday should also be given a new name maybe! How about, “Expectation Wednesday!”
Listen: “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” - Matthew 6:16-18 NKJV
Pray: Father, thank You for the forgiveness I have received through Jesus Christ the Lord, Your Son and my Saviour. Holy Spirit, lifter of my head, bore my ears with the sign of my much satisfied servant hood, yes, come, trepan my skull and open my mind to who I am in You, come breathe again the kiss of life, up my flared and open nostrils and raise me again and again in my daily experience, to life and light and love and hope, in Jesus name I pray, amen?
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