Today is Ash Wednesday? My childhood Anglican Chapel with stained glass windows weeping blood tears into nesting pigeon, and my parents managing to look happy while duelling bass & alto at a Lenten anthem….
Gran insisted on a fast. Dad couldn’t bear the thought. Ma, she balanced the two acts with ease: gram- curry, complete with red boiled rice in ghee – kanji. Which was essentially Rice boiled water. Which Dad hated with his life. But he loved the protocol of sad-ish days! And this was a sad-ish event. Ash Wednesday hailed a new trek around a live Cross: over the next 40 days old songs would be nailed in new ways, new flowers cut for old vases, the brass Cross got polished all over again till you saw your face in it when they carried it down to the altar on Good Friday, weeks down.
Auntie Sukam wore her grey silk and brooches with foundation cream, stark cream in her brown face, the lipstick was always pale mauve on Ash Wednesday: Christ would notice, she had this aura of beautiful pain around her long ageing eyes, its crinkles running up her temples. When aunt Sukum sang you wanted to stop staring at the lit up pigeon and close your eyes and listen to it all. To the wheezing Organ, to the Padre’s high tenor killing it, to the roar of distant town bus and the occasional water pump bleating in Taj compound, the tourist hotel with four rooms and one tiny tower overlooking us all in the chapel with wild lilies outside. Its a lot to remember all of a sudden, not just us in stages of life, but Christ Himself and what He was doing back then, and now- seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding with pleas for the best and the worst of us:
I’m staring at this beautiful Ash. And Him on that Cross, that once. That was all it took. That Once; yes festivals can grow silly, sour, overdone, or flatten out with Time; there’s no one I know now that bares mauve lipstick and Grey silk reeking of mothballs, nor sings like old Chapel folk @’Old Rugged Cross’…
It never goes out of me: that spirit of the Lent. The word derived from Lean, as in Leaning, Lent. To lean on a Strength, on Redemption, on Grace, on Hope, on Love. To lean, I lent on His Memo of Salvation. I’ve never really celebrated this day as any particular event, but early this morning as a few pigeon messed my fern, and I went waving all arms to shoo them away, I remembered to remember the way this feels, in Present Tense:
The Cross – a tense all by Itself, an Entity. I won’t pretend to even begin to describe Its Data. It crossed hell for heaven for us, and back. And forth. Via decades of nonsense and dis- ease, It never stopped following Humanity, in and out of graves, in and through crises and vanity fairs. Above and beyond all powers in high and low places, between This and That, Here& There, These & Those, the Cross was an event that happened ONCE, and It changed everything, present continuous, changes everything as we speak. Don’t ask me how it felt for Him , I’m still staring : at Him: Him Seeping Life into death.
Its not a sad season, It can change the way Humans Lean, and Whom on. Once we get that, it Hits you: This is the real deal.