Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord, your God.

-Joel 2:12-13

Receiving the ashes from an Episcopal priest in the open-air church on the island of Maui is a far cry from my experience of last year’s Ash Wednesday. I find myself wondering is it time, distance, place, me or all of the above that rings differently? Last year’s celebration was in a more evangelical setting and I found that I was battling my own inner struggles with childhood and early adult notions of fire, brimstone and eternal hell.

This year’s rendering felt more attuned to my heart and state of mind. The here and now was more prescient than an out there view of penitence. My morning focus came from today’s verse (see above) in the Abbey of the Arts Lenten series where I landed on what it means to “rend my heart.”

“Rending” to me focuses on those tiny rips and tears that happen subtlely (and not so subtlely) throughout the day. Do I say a discourteous word to someone or think a prideful thought? While I in no means want to lean toward the do’s and don’ts of a faith by works theology, I am struck by the infinitesimal ways I can offend others and thus my own self (often without a word leaving my mouth or an overt action taking place.)

Today after the morning church service and breakfast, we took a drive to the Iao Valley, which is one of our personal guide’s favorite historical spots on the island. A great battle was fought in this valley and so many died there legend says the river ran red with blood for weeks after the engagement. There is also a lovely park with visual representations of the many immigrant populations of this island. My heart again turned to “rending” and the large tears and carnage that we as human beings inflict upon each other.

It has been another magical day in paradise. My heart has turned toward God again and I ponder what the rest of Lent will hold for me. What will the rending look like? Will there be healing too? Where will blood flow through the rivers of my life? What battles lie ahead?

This morning rending came defined as harsh and harrowing, and while the definition may not have changed, it feels like the turning (& tearing) of my heart continues on the path toward a God who heals and walks alongside through both peaceful times and tumultuous ones. It is a God worth turning toward.

Where is your heart turning this Lenten season? Can you feel the rending? Will you be open to God’s mending? Is paradise yours - here and now?

view inside Holy Innocents Church - Maui © h3images
Iao Valley © h3 images

10 comments:

Tess said...

This question of the subtlety of the rips and tears is important as we get older, I think. There's a danger that with increased (a very little!) wisdom the temptations get increasingly dressed up or disguised and discernment becomes harder and harder. There are of course the big destructive moments (because what else is sin but destruction) but the little ones get increasingly difficult to spot. Bleugh!

Barbara said...

I don't read that passage the same way you do. I think of rending the heart like the rending of garments spoken of in the Scriptures as a sign of penitence. It is my tearing asunder of the heart, an opening of my innermost self up, a making vulnerable, an expression of compassion which the Lord prefers to outward symbols of a change of heart.

I feel a real tug in my heart toward old friends who have contacted me lately or whom I want so to contact. I need to open up more, reach out to others. God only knows why this feeling prods me at every turn. It may seem a gentle rending, but, for me, a very content introvert who has a ridiculous antipathy to telephones, it opens me up wide.

The Pollinatrix said...

I like what Barbara says about opening the innermost self. That's what this verse speaks of to me, the difference between the inner transformation and the outer expression.

It's interesting that it says to return with your "whole" heart, but then says to rend it. Somehow these things are dependent on each other. For the heart to be whole, it must be rent? Or vice versa? Or perhaps a whole heart is one that is awake to the "little rips and tears," as you call them. Or all of the above.

claire said...

I have found Lucy that I cannot rend my heart, however much I wish I could to show my good will this Lent.

My heart is rent, it seems, when I come across something which I did, today or many years ago, and now see another angle to what I did.

A heart rent, then, might be a learning heart, a listening heart, a wounded heart which splits open to let Godde's love flow through it...

Thank you for a lovely meditation.

SUNRISE SISTER said...

This is such a beautiful post - when I revisited it today I realized that I had not commented when I read it the first time.

My heart is turning toward God and trying to remember that the turning doesn't have to be as difficult as I seem to be making it. God is here with me, I just have to acknowledge that.

I believe that paradise is with us always in the daily act of life.

Missing you on M:)

xo

Beth P. said...

The rips and tears are almost like lines on a beloved grandmother's face...part of the landscape?

I enjoy visiting your blog, especially now that I know that we're fellow journeyers for the Lenten season. Hope you visit my post about 'ashes on our 3rd eye'...

Aloha-

lucy said...

tess - hmmmm. i really like your comment and it feels as though you have some very specific situations in mind... but that's kind of how we operate isn't it?

i find as my "wisdom" increases, i seem to be much more aware of the small things i overlooked for so long, although now you have me wondering what may be "dressed up or disguised." bleugh!! xoxo

lucy said...

barbara - i get your understanding of this passage and the rending as an opening toward God. for some reason when i read it this time, i decided to look up the word rend since it kept jumping out at me. here are just three of the definitions:

1) to separate into parts with force or violence
2) to tear (one's garments or hair) in grief, rage, etc.
3) to harrow or distress (the heart) with painful feelings.

wishing you the best with where your heart is leading this season... into those challenging places as they seem. onward!!

lucy said...

pollinatrix - the phrase in your comment that really spoke to me is this:

"perhaps a whole heart is one that is awake to the "little rips and tears," as you call them." this feels like what beth says about the lines on a grandmother's face. whole yet lined (or imprinted) & scarred?? oh, it's all so interesting to ponder, huh?


claire (& all) - i am so touched by the beauty of the comments evoked here. ("learning, listening & wounded hearts" with love clearly flowing through.) thank you for sharing this with me.

lucy said...

SS - ah yes, making things more difficult than they need to be. when you read my post of today, you may see that simplicity feels like my place for Lent... just being... not working at it. (now, if i can only remember that!) xoxoxoox


beth - thank you so much for stopping by. as i mentioned to claire earlier, i love your words about the lined grandmother's face. yes, i believe the rips and tears become a part of our landscape - earned and hopefully cherished.

look forward to journeying with you!