Ash Wednesday was last week, the beginning of Lent, and the day was almost over when I finally remembered, slipping in unnoticed. Not that I had decided to do anything for Lent this year, but I had planned to be mindful of it, to think on it frequently as we went through.
The shortening days here in the Southern Hemisphere are like a countdown towards Jesus’ death. The scarf over my head feels like a mourning veil, already knowing what is coming and, like the woman with the alabaster jar (see Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9), preparing for it. The two days between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday leave little time for mourning the death of the one we thought would reshape our lives, the city and country we live in. The man who promised transformed lives dies, leaving us with nothing. We are left empty, hollowed out and left bereft in our same, small, everyday lives. We are left here to do the work ourselves, toiling unaided by the Divine.
Here, now, two thousand years later, we know how the story ends, we know Christ rises from the ashes of our faith, breathes into us anew.
But this pacing of days, this slow decline into darkness, has us shedding the burdens weighing us down, shedding the skins of yesterdays that have built up into a hard husk, armouring us against the world. Slowly, day by day, skin by skin, we are made vulnerable, shiny new and soft, our hearts beating outside the protection of our ribcage.
Here, at the beginning of Lent, we sense it coming, we feel the impending rolls of thunder bearing down upon us. And we choose to let go, to open ourselves to it, trusting in the promise of the coming Messiah, trusting that the hollow emptiness of Jesus’ death is not the end.