10 March 2011

Ashes to Ashes

Sometimes, I wish we could be a bit more Medieval.
Allow me to explain. Witch-hunts, the Crusades, and the plague aside, the Middle Ages were a key time in Christian spiritual development. The Church, held a pivotal place in people’s lives, not only as the central authority, but as the central hub of life.
Every significant moment in a person’s life from birth to the grave was punctuated by ritual -- an outward, public expression of the inward spiritual journey. In addition, the church was also the cultural hub in terms of art, music, literature, education and thought; as well as the epicentre of social and community life. It was where you went to meet people, to seek advice, support, &etc.
We have lost this very ordinary and direct connection to/with ‘the church’. And I believe there is no time that this is more evident and noticeable than Ash Wednesday, and the start of Lent.
Tonight’s service at St. Peter’s was beautiful and deeply moving. Heartbreaking it was, though, as there were more people in the Choir, then there were sitting in the congregation. 
Let’s face, apart from the fact that the vestments for Lent are a luscious, regal purple, it’s a pretty dour time.
The readings, collects, prayers, and anthems for Ash Wednesday all centre on themes of repentance, redemption, sin, self-denial, and sacrifice. We are reminded how we have fallen short of the mark, and admonished that we’ve got 40 long days to think about it. 
But, more than this, Ash Wednesday requires us to actively contemplate our own mortality: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
We’d rather skip that part, and cut straight to Easter. How easy to forget that there is no light, without darkness. No resurrection, without death. No glistening Spring, without the chill of Winter.
I was surprised by the “tweet” (yes, I vowed never, ever to join Twitter…) that popped up on my screen: “What are you giving up for Lent?” 
I was surprised to find such a spiritual query in that secular space. I have decided this year to “give up” something very precious to me: my time.
I run in circles everyday looking for more time to complete tasks, meet deadlines, work out, train for the Swimathon, send email, tweet (ugh!) -- never enough hours in a day.  
So, instead of denying myself chocolate, wine or popcorn, I want to ‘hit where it really hurts’ and give time to my community, and find new ways of serving. 
And, just maybe, perhaps, helping St Peter’s become a bit more, well, ... Medieval.


Dee said...

I came over to your blog by way of Elizabeth's and it's really nice - wait, let's say it's "brilliant" - more British, right?! You have the same name as my daughter, except she spells her name "Alesia" - the American version of her Russian name, which was "Olesya." [She's adopted so I didn't get to name her.] Anyway, it's lovely. I spent a summer in England years ago and loved it. Maybe someday I will go back...

Anonymous said...

I was coming over to say that I had left you some link love at my place, but Dee got here before me with her comment. Our village church never seems to have more than 18 to 20 on its pews for most of the year except for the curious during summer school breaks and the major religious holidays when people fill the church.

We don't even have choir. They used to have one, but it was long before my time.