It looks and feels like an Ash Wednesday in Kansas City. The sky lowers, the wind blows as if nature, herself, were removing all good times and lightness. Marti Gras is over. The floats are put away. The beads hung up for another year.
I suppose it’s easy, for those of us used to celebrating Lent, to think of Ash Wednesday in that way. “Celebrating Lent” might even seem like one of those unexplained oxymorons. Celebrate?
On the other hand, there are those who appreciate the time of withdrawal to focus on a spiritual life and to let some of the world of stuff remain at a distance rather than grabbing at our attention. Oh, the ads will continue in the press and the television and the lure of the world still there, but if the focus is first on spiritual growth, their lure is less.
On Ash Wednesday, I always remember the year I woke in Mexico to a finally quiet morning. In Tepoztlan (you can even Google the name and see photos), where I lived some fifty miles southeast of Mexico City, the week before Ash Wednesday is as noisy as the week in New Orleans, but with different accompaniments. The village people, more Indian than mestizo, from the surrounding mountainside pueblos, gathered in the town square and danced. A curious sort of jumping up and down dance that went on for hours almost like a trance. No music other than drums and wooden flutes. The people wore masques with the faces of conquistadors and blankets wrapped tightly about them. The house we’d rented was situated a short four blocks from the plaza so we were in the midst, as it were, of sound and celebration.
At night, fireworks went off for hours and hours – all night long. Tepoztlan had a fireworks factory for cohetes as they were called. Huge bottle-rocket shaped and about four feet long. When they exploded over the town, the dishes shook. Sleep was nonexistent.
On Fat Tuesday the rockets were continuous. “Wait,” I said to my friend. “The noise will end at midnight.” I’d lived in New Orleans and knew Fat Tuesday ended at midnight. Fat Tuesday always ended at midnight.
Not in Tepoztlan. The rockets went on until dawn. And then, with the first streaks of light, went silent. Ahhhhhhhhh.
That’s when I understood the value of Celebrating Lent.
We now have another year and another season to celebrate a new day, a new ahhhhhhhh, and a new practice of being “ambassadors for Christ….” the God within us.
As we will say this evening as we administer ashes to our community, “Turn away from your darkness and move to the light.” Practice being the light of Christ. What would it mean to your life and way of being if you were to practice being the Christ light? What do you need to release from your own personal darkness in order to be that light? Your impatience? Worry? Judgment? Fear?
For these short few weeks, practice a new way of living.