easter is early this year, so Ash Wednesday will scuttle quickly behind Valentine’s Day, arriving just three days later. When Easter arrives there will very likely still be snow on the ground in most places (the places I frequent) when we do some edition of an egg hunt. Late Easters, like the one we’ll have in 2022, with a chance of tree blossoms and visible grass, are my favorite.
There will be an abundance of ashes this year. The pre-blessed, pre-packaged, distantly-picked-up kind, the homemade kind from a smudge of ash on the inside of a glass or leaf burned in a dish, its bits smushed with olive oil. And the kind sitting in homes across the world, held in memory or in waiting for a chance to be scattered, from someone who was very much alive last Easter.
Instead of a gently bold touch of another pressing them against your forehead, there will just be your hand, or the hand of one in your household, to smush them on.
There won’t be people walking the street in the costumes of plague doctors but maybe there should be. There won’t be weeping and people rending their clothing in public grief but maybe there should be. The sun won’t disappear for 24hrs but it would feel appropriate if it did.
The dust to dust, the careless razor edge between death and life, the elemental grief of Ash Wednesday will come easy to us this year.
Thinking of the opening lines of Amanda Gorman’s recitation at the inauguration
When day comes we ask ourselves,where can we find light in this never-ending shade?The loss we carry,a sea we must wade
And after pinching ashes, maybe we will take on the voluntarily limitations of Lent with something like joy? Anything we accept will stand next to the limitations we’ve already accepted, the things we’ve given up for so much longer than 40 days: smiling frank handshakes with a new friend, visible smiles altogether, sticky bar drinks at night in the corner, potlucks with baked beans.
Anything we accept for Lent will be our choice to be our challenge. Ideally it’s a collective choice, one you make with another person or group of people, to experience together.
Reading through this pamphlet published by the Diocese in Toronto, my imagination was captured by their thoughtful list of suggested fasts. Week 7, an ignorance fast: Only creation can teach us how to live in the the face of creational lament and decline. This week we are fasting from ignorance: ignorance about the injustice that our lives are built on, and ignorance about the creation that surrounds us. They quote Job:
But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Week 6, electricity fast: During this week, try to eliminate as much electricity from your life as possible. Light only the area in a room that you need for your activities, and only the room that you are in. Try a week with no movies, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, television, or Youtube cat videos. This week culminates in Earth Hour on Saturday evening: turn off all electricity from 8:30-9:30pm.
I’m not sure what fast I’ll take, on but I do know it feels best to consider them in advance, and anticipate them. I invite you to click the link to the pamphlet and consider some of their suggestions.
A bit more Amanda Gorman to close
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it