Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Snow on Ash Wednesday

The 11am Ash Wednesday liturgy has just ended and I am back in my office reflecting on how the day has gone thus far. The day began with a 7am liturgy. Next I drove the kids to school, and dropped my wife at her office. After I gave the dog his morning walk it was back at church to prepare and serve the 10am liturgy. Somewhere along the way I heard the news that the oldest member of my family, my great-aunt Louise, had died this morning. She was 94.

This is not the first time a family member has died on or near Ash Wednesday. Thirteen years ago my grandfather died in the early morning hours the day after Ash Wednesday. Both of these deaths force me into reflecting on my own mortality on this day of days.

As a professed and practicing Christian, this day reminds me over and again of the terminal nature of the human condition. Psalm 103, which is appointed for the day reads as such…

13 As a father cares for his children, *so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made; * he remembers that we are but dust.

15 Our days are like the grass; * we flourish like a flower of the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone, * and its place shall know it no more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him, *
     and his righteousness on children's children;

18 On those who keep his covenant * and remember his commandments and do them.

We remember our mortality on this day, not to sulk in self-pity or despair, but to be reminded that as fragile and vulnerable creatures we are always in need of the one who created us. We are always in need of His nurture, care, wisdom and assurance. As the beginning of the Psalm 103 reminds…

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, * and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, * and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins * and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave * and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things, * and your youth is renewed like an eagle's.

It’s been snowing for two hours now. And although I’d like it to be spring, I know we are still in winter, and surrounded by the signs of sleep and death. As Lent begins, I seen my mortal nature wrapped up in a radical dependency upon the mercy and grace of God. As the snow covers the ground, I hope God’s grace will cover me and all who share in this earthly pilgrimage. For where there is grace, there is hope. And where there is hope, there is life. Rest in peace, Louise, and rise in Glory.