This is the liturgy of rain,
falling on mountain, field, and ocean—
indifferent, anonymous, complete—
of water infinitesimally slow,
sifting through rock, pooling in darkness,
gathering in springs, then rising without our agency,
only to dissolve in mist or cloud or dew.
This is a litany to earth and ashes,
to the dust of roads and vacant rooms,
to the fine silt circling in a shaft of sun,
settling indifferently on books and beds.
This is a prayer to praise what we become,
“Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return.”
Savor its taste—the bitterness of earth and ashes.
Until at last it is our litany, mon vieux,
my reader, my voyeur, as if the mist
steaming from the gorge, this pure paradox,
the shattered river rising as it falls—
splintering the light, swirling it skyward,
neither transparent nor opaque but luminous,
even as it vanishes—were not our life.
~Dana Gioia from “The Litany”
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears,
for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.
I was better after I had cried, than before–
more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.
~Charles Dickens as “Pip” in Great Expectations
God’s people are reminded today, Ash Wednesday, that our stay here is temporary. That reality always makes me weep. I tend to fix my eyes on what I see around me as part of my daily life, like breathing in and out. The world lures me with its beauty, yet when it quakes and burns and shatters as it surely does at times, I am devastated to acknowledge my own eventual return to dust and ashes.
Even so, the rain falls, gathers into rivers and oceans, but rises again as mist back to the heavens. Light splinters and spills into colors and hues in that misty veil — God’s people become the unseen, no longer bitter ash, not transparent nor opaque but at once luminous and eternal and glorious.
Over the next few weeks of Lenten preparation, I hope to better understand what I cannot yet see, trusting that what comes next far surpasses any glory my eyes have witnessed here.
This year’s Barnstorming Lenten theme is taken from 2 Corinthians 4: 18:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
One thought on “Fixing Eyes on the Unseen – From Earth and Ashes”
What you wrote is beautiful Emily, thank you
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