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Ashes to Ashes: A Musing on Lent

February 20, 2007

 

Hashata hakha, l’shana haba b’ar’a d’yisrael;
Hashata avdei, l’shana haba bnei chorin.

 “This year here, next year in Israel!! This year slaves, next year free men!” (Jewish saying at Passover)

Human beings are amphibious creatures, created for eternity yet existing in linear time.  Thanks in no small part to the Industrial Revolution, it is easy to confirm that, at least in the West,  we are chained to the hands of a watch moving inexorably onward.  Even a century ago this was not so; planting would begin when leaves reached an approximate size and the workday would end around dusk.  Modern man, on the other hand, has life scheduled to the second (and wonders why he is under nearly constant pressure!).  We were not intended to live that way, faced with instantaneous change conflicting with an ingrained desire for stability. 

Think about why one of the most effective methods of torturers throughout history has been to deny their victims any sense of the true passage of time.  Separate man from knowledge of the season, day, or hour and he is lost and easily broken.   Call it circadian rhythms if you will, but we long for both transition and constancy.  Thanks be to our God, who has perfectly balanced the two.  It will be spring again, but always a *new* spring.  Feast and famine are balanced too, an apt reminder as we move towards the Great Fast of Lent.  If it was always winter but never Christmas, there would be no expectation or pleasure and life would be constant drudgery.  On the other hand, one cannot appreciate feasting without a sense of what it means to be deprived.  Judaism and liturgical Christianity allow for both, just as it should be.  When Jews celebrate the Passover, their joy in the Lord’s mighty deliverance is tempered by reminders (such as the maror, or bitter herbs) of the misery of slavery.  It is significant to remember that Christ’s last meal was a Passover seder as he both fulfilled all of the Passover customs and made them new by instituting the Lord’s Supper on that night. 

Lent must give way to Easter, sorrow to joy, but our joy is not yet complete.  Next year we may be free, but for now we are slaves, slaves to sin, slaves to this physical world.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus; because of your resurrection we hope to celebrate the Passover meal together with you once more in the New Jerusalem, ha aretz Yisrael

In the spirit of John Donne and T.S. Eliot (but without their considerable poetic gifts), I present this roughly formed Lenten sonnet (fellow English majors will discern the form to be Italian), playing with several ideas mentioned above.  Be kind and forgiving, but feedback is always welcome. 

Deliverance, by Juliet Wilkins  

As Moses wandered lost for forty years   

So man must fast to taste long promised joys

Now vicious hearts must turn from twisted ways  

Or perish weighted with a world of cares

The wheel of justice moves through all the spheres

Dread fire’s heat makes pure gold’s coarse alloys

And man, but dust, is chastened and obeys

For freedom’s laughter follows slavery’s tears.

On Easter vigil leaden souls arise

To praise salvation now and yet to come

While hallelujahs once again sound clear

The darkest midnight cannot hold the skies

When dawn proclaims a risen Lord’s anthem

And His new life can banish death and fear.  

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One comment

  1. beautiful, J. Thanks for sharing…I’m still chewing on this new twist on the constancy (and health) of change…



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