In Which I Clothe Myself in Sackcloth and Ashes

Today is Ash Wednesday, if you follow the liturgical calendar. I do. There is a poem written by T.S. Elliot, his first long poem after his conversion to Anglicanism (which I as an Episcopalian am particularly taken with), which tells a wonderful story of what Ash Wednesday might be. You can read the whole thing here (it’s long) but here is a part, the very end of the poem, which especially speaks to me at the beginning of this season of Lent:

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

At Lent you’re supposed to give up something as a sort of sacrifice, but last year a girl I know told me that rather than giving something up, she was taking something on. In her case, that meant going to church more. I liked that idea quite a bit, taking on the going to church and thereby sacrificing her Sunday mornings. For me, this year, I am taking on a couple practices which I hope will lead me to a deeper spirituality. On mornings when I don’t have an early class at school (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday) I’m going to be doing yoga. In the evenings before I go to bed I will be performing centering prayer and meditation as I come down from the day and center myself to sleep and face a new day in the morning. I’ve done centering prayer before and found it really valuable, and as for the yoga… I’m almost absurdly inflexible so I’m hoping that will change in addition to the calmness brought about by the breathing exercises. I am excited to see what forty days of meditation and yoga will do.

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et pulverem reverteris. Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.

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