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March 01, 2006


You can think of wearing the ash as (among other things, of course) giving permission to people to have a spiritual life.

I'm always grateful to the people who walk about with the ash cross, or with the Hindu "third eye" dots on whatever that holy day is.

Thanks for saying that, Dale. I think the embarrassment used to come from knowing people looked and made all sorts of assumptions about me - same as if I were to wear a cross around my neck. As I get older, and care less what people think, it's easier to just do things. I think my friend Shirin, who wore hijab for so many years, helped me too: I saw how difficult it was for her, especially when people jumped to all sorts of conclusions about something very complex, and yet she had her own inner conviction and knew what it meant to her. Her courage gave me permission to live my own spiritual life a little more openly - like you say here. However, one thing that does bother me about overt religious symbols is the way they tend to proclaim exclusivity - which is not a part of my spiritual life.

I went to Ash Wednesday mass long after I stopped believing. I liked the mixed blessing, and wearing spirituality, without the religion. My Jack Mormon spouse also likes the ceremony and message of it. He also says it is the day when Jews all over the world get to say,
"You missed a spot!"

Now I want him to pick up some hot-crossed buns tomorrow. Though they will be hardly 'one a penny, two a penny.'

I like the fact that we don't have to wish people "Happy Lent!" Hallmark doesn't make Lent cards. It's an anti-holiday.

Time to tell you that I find your blog a delight: intelligent, thoughtful, and passionate for life - life in all its raggedy and tattered glory. I particularly enjoy your accounts of pottering, sauntering, meandering - around the city, the library, and the park. You've inspired me to try and build some "small trips" into my sedentary dissertation days.

Zhoen, thanks for those thoughts. There's something powerful about this ritual, I think because - whatever our beliefs - we can't deny our mortality and it's mainly about that.

Dave - Yeah! And it's unlikely to change. I can't imagine how Madison Avenue would commercialize Lent. (Although the chocolate bunnies are already out.)

Anna - thanks so much for your comment and your kind words! Best of luck with your dissertation - I am very sympathetic now to the demands of big writing projects and the way they kind of take over your entire life.

But Beth, with you the huge project didn't - or didn't seem to... but then again, I realise that your blog is only a snapshot of your actual daily life. However, you DO inspire me to achieve a balance - your example of working and then breaking to enjoy... I really crave that.
PS. Just thought maybe Bloggers are like icebergs - a large part of the actuality is out of sight!

Ohmigod. Ask my husband how it has felt to him! I've tried to retain some sense of balance but especially in the last six months it has been almost impossible. This has been like having two jobs, since we also have a business and professional clients. It's been -- difficult. I'm looking forward to regaining more balance and, hopefully, feeling rested again, but I know I am going to really miss the writing (and research) because it is what makes me feel the most like I am running on all my particular cylinders!

Well, you've done a marvellous job.

By the way, Beth, how far is your trip between Vermont and Montreal?

I used to love all the Catholic rituals, including getting an ash cross on my forehead for Ash Wednesday. I lost touch with all of it over the years. When I was in Mexico last year during Holy Week with all the processions and all the churches we visited it felt like I must have been a different person when I felt a part of that. Weird.

As for Lent, last year Russell Stovers got in trouble for making chocolate crosses. Lent, that time to deny oneself goodies and various self-indulgent things in favor of the spirit, doesn't fit well with capitalism.

I really like the image of the ashes as signifying not consuming, but being consumed. Thank you for that.

For me, the ashes are a way of externalizing my faith--of bringing forth what tends to be inside.

Beautiful entry.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.