Ash Wednesday musing

Lent began today, much too early in the year. The skies have been dark, the weather damp and too warm for winter but perfect for a cave, which is fine, since Lent is “cave time”. We bury ourselves in a way, moving among our duties with pronounced quiet, focused attention, prayer; we take on a more somber diet; the TV will sit silently for weeks to come. For now, we are a Lenten people, heading for an uncertain end.

It was about this time of year when my dear friend, Marie, was diagnosed with liver cancer. She’s been on my mind lately; perhaps because she was such a lover of Corgis, and we now have Lady, our own resident Corgi, to remind me of Marie’s little Cricket.

I become a Lenten person whenever I think of Marie, remembering our last days together. I understand just about everything about her physical death and almost nothing about her soul’s journey into the future. But during those final days, I could feel an ambiguous promise heading her way. The signs were gentle, small, quiet — but evidence of the promise in her unfamiliar destiny was there, if one slipped between the long moments of her dying, where listening requires every skill of the whole being.

When Marie finally died, leaving her damaged body to Earth’s care, the weather had transformed from the gray chill of winter to the glory of late spring. That is how I hope my own death will be — the time when I know more certainly that my death will come soon will be a Lenten time, but the death itself will open into a glorious, fecund awareness of the One God-ness that permeates absolutely everything.

Every Lent, then, becomes a little practice for death, every Easter a murmur of the vast futurescape ahead that teems with possibility. Whether we consider ourselves religious or not, this time of year begs us to attend carefully to the slowly changing season. Soon, soon we will each emerge into the glory of a mysterious future.

I wish you all great stillness in the cave-days ahead. Slip between the moments of your own days, attentive to the wisdom that dwells in time-outside-of-time.

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