I first had this titled by the first line of T. S. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday. A gorgeous poem that I try to read every year on, yes, Ash Wednesday. This year, I listened to Mr. Eliot read it himself via the miracle of Youtube. I hate to admit it, but I much prefer Jeremy Irons reading the same poem. What does Eliot know about the cadence of his own poem, anyhow?
I switched the title, obviously. Let the reader beware that this blog has become an experiment. It seems fitting to start the experiment on Ash Wednesday and that’s all I will say about that. Indeed, I haven’t much to say at all. Not today.
Eliot talks about faces filled with hope and not despair and isn’t that something? We file into the church, packing ourselves nearly as full as Christmas or Easter, and not even there out of obligation. Arriving for one purpose, often, not even the Sacrament as one would expect. But solely for the ashes. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We whisper amen and scurry back to our pew, foreheads smeared black, ashes dusting our eyelashes, our cheeks. Filling a church to be reminded of one’s death, and leaving with more than death, although the death follows us, it’s shadow poking around the corner at unexpected places. All of this we flock to. All of this, the blessed ashes, the blessing of the reminder of our death. Such is the paradox of hope.
But it’s late and I’m rambling. Jeremy Irons has just finished reading “Ash Wednesday” and I wonder if I might not listen to it everyday this Lent. Will it be too much that way?