lenten altar

Lenten Meditations: Ash Wednesday

by Anne Peterson

Ashes—made from burned palm fronds from … a reminder of the finite reality of our lives. Kneeling at the altar to receive the cross of ashes on my forehead is a moving moment for me—more-so now that I have entered yet another decade of life. The ceremony is a wake-up call, not unlike New Year’s, without the football. Where am I now? What do I want to do in the world at this point in time?

David Whyte’s “Fire in the Earth” is a guide for me this day:

And we know, when Moses was told,
                in the way he was told,
“Take off your shoes!” He grew pale from that simple
reminder of fire in the dusty earth.
               He never recovered
his complicated way of loving again

and was free to love in the same way
              he felt the first licking at his heels loved him.
As if the lion earth could roar

and take him in one movement.
              Every step he took
from there was carefully placed.

Everything he said mattered as if he knew
              the constant witness of the ground
and remembered his own face in the dust

the moment before revelation.
               Since then thousands have felt
the same immobile tongue with which he tried to speak.

Like the moment you too saw, for the first time, 
               your own house turned to ashes.
Everything consumed so the road could open again.

Your entire presence in your eyes 
                 and the world turning slowly
into a single branch of flame.

During the Forty Days of Lent, we will offer daily meditations from All Saints Church. Today’s is written by Anne Peterson; a retired staff member who continues to consult with our Leadership Project.

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