The Rector Writes
The Rector writes...............March 2017
Remember That You Are Dust
Mardi Gras is celebrated in many cities around the world, most famously perhaps in New Orleans, and always falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Apparently the celebration of Mardi Gras came to North America from Paris where it had been celebrated since the Middle Ages. But the roots of Mardi Gras are much older and much deeper than the French export; there are connections to the ancient tribal rituals of fertility that welcome the arrival of the season of Spring. A feature at the heart of the Mardi Gras is the masking of participants who dance long into the night.
The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is a time when Christians embark on a forty-day journey; a journey that mirrors that of Jesus in the wilderness. But it is very much our own journey as we strive to move, step by step, toward a closer relationship with God, and the disciplines of the season of Lent are there to help us remove all the distractions that we use to mask ourselves from the love of God. Lent is a time to be called to our beginning, a time where we were created from the dust of the earth. And to return to that beginning we must become aware of what keeps us from our essential selves. We do that through self-examination, repentance, fasting, self-denial, meditation, prayer, reading and the study of Scripture. This is a call to live a life in conflict with 21st Century culture. In a world where buying and consuming is synonymous with godliness, we are called to fasting and self-denial. In a world where outward image is everything, we are called to reflect inwardly with prayer, meditation and silence. In a world where the present moment is everything, we are called to study ancient scriptures to understand that our history is the foundation that can shape what is to come. Where normally we fight hard to obscure ourselves, Lent is a time to cease our striving for power, acceptance and attention. In our own wilderness journey we are called to a place where, as with Jesus, we face the inevitability of death - we ‘Remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return’ - so that death is no longer something to fear but a place where we have already been, and to which we will return.
This is not a gloomy time, far from it in fact, it is a time to open ourselves up to the love of God, and through the silence and prayer we are offered a window to realise that as ourselves we are worth everything to God. So Lent is a time of unmasking, a journey toward authenticity and a time to dance with our own true-selves. For God to love us we are not required to be masked; we only need to ask his forgiveness and continue on our dance of discovery as we are drawn more fully into the heart of God.