At the imposition of ashes, I looked
everywhere for signs and symbols.
Big ones, that might say something loud.
I talked to the cross, the person hanging there.
Asked questions, asked for favors.
Later, behind the monstrance, light through the
cracked door was soft blue. Door said Cloister.
Top of the door was not straight, but arched
like the sky. I thought it might be nice to slide
through, receive, ascend. Then I thought of how
some things endure longer than the sun, the moon.
The Familiarity of Ash Wednesday
As I looked at the manger scene this past Christmas season, I remember feeling astounded that the sweet baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes is the same Person hanging on the Cross.
Likewise, with Ash Wednesday. This is a holy day grounded in the Truth of life, death, and the journeying of Lent. Essentially, there is dirt on our foreheads in the shape of a cross, symbolic of so much meaning.
As a Catholic revert, coming back into the Church from a Protestant tradition started with sitting in churches. Specifically, sitting in Adoration at a cloistered monastery. I was encouraged by my writing teacher at the time to find a third place—somewhere to go, reflect, and write. She was not Catholic, but had chosen a monastery for her place. I decided that would be my place, too.
I didn’t fully know then what I now know about the Faith, particularly hidden gems like the role of Mary and who she is. What I did know was that Ash Wednesday was familiar to me and I wanted to sit with that idea. I was learning to look in detail and use language to express things so easily unseen with just a passing glance.
Drawing Me Closer
I remember noting the color of soft blue as the sun fell through the window and illuminated the space, the monstrance, the arch of the doorway, and the cross. This led me to consider things that endure and last. Essentially, to consider eternity in bite size chunks I could understand. Also the concrete and tangible that I need to hold, see, and smell to grasp harder concepts.
Ash Wednesday, I thought. How strange, how lovely, how much more I want to know.
The echoes of the above poem ring with such ordinary things but invite me to go deeper:
ashes - eternity - cross - enduring - monstrance - receive - door - ascend.
And so with you this Lent. What are the ordinary things you notice that allow your heart to leap to something more Jesus wants to show you? You don’t have to write a poem to note it but maybe a prayer or a few sentences on your impression of the moment. He gladly meets us where we are.
May Ash Wednesday be invitational to you in this Lenten season.
Jenny Richeson is a Catholic writer who is a lover of language and its mysteries. By day she provides speech pathology and cognitive intervention services to kids. Her main goal in life is to be a speaking stargazer caught up in wonder whenever possible. She makes her home in Kentucky with her husband, Matt. Together they find God in gardening and all manner of outdoor activities whenever they can. Stargazing is a favorite pastime too. You can find out more about her here.