Monday, March 05, 2007

Dust and Ashes

"Wherefore I abhor myself, and do penance in dust and ashes."
-Job 42:6

A Lenten reflection.

Have you ever seen a full moon? I live in an area which allows me to get a good vantage point of it. I always admired how it would illuminate the clouds that surround it from behind, highlighting its wisps like a poor man's aurora borealis. Sometimes, when there are no clouds, I look, enraptured, at the fullness of its glory. Often, I would stare out my window just to get a good look at it. The softness of the moonlight is almost poetic and brings to life many things hidden in the day. There are just some things that you can only see at night.

Lately, I've found my view of the moon being obstructed by this tree. It hadn't been there that long, perhaps only three years. but slowly and surely, it began to cover the moon. I hated how the tree's leaves would cover up the moon. I hated how its rugged trunk stuck like some stripper's gonorrhea-ridden pole in my yard. And I hated how bats would sometimes spend the night in it. I hate bats.

It so happened that a few months later, around January, the tree began to lose its leaves. Slowly, the green that frolicked like tongues of fire on its withered branches began to fall, leaving the tree looking like a xenomorph husk. I hated the way its gnarled branches stretched like bony fingers to an unseen target. It looked like something straight out of a bad horror movie.

I awoke the next day feeling groggy from the previous night's calculus test (I hate math the most, though). I went to the garden as usual. It was a few minutes before dawn. The tree was still there, but it did not look as gnarled and creepy as before. Then, in the blink of an eye, I saw it. A red and yellow shape fluttered out of nowhere and landed on a bony twig. It was a bird. I had never seen its kind before-- they were just so rare. I don't know what species it was, but it was one of the most beautiful birds I had ever seen. It perched there for two minutes which could very well have been eternity. It left in the same flutter of color in which it had arrived.

Then, the sun came up. It shone with a golden light that bathed the whole landscape with a fiery glow. Its beams shone forth and stabbed through the garden like a saber of light. The beams hit the tree, scattering and refracting the light in a sea of directions. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold.

Just what in the bloody blue hell does this have to do with Lent?

A lot, actually.

There is no more poetic, more glorious and more emotional time in the Christian calendar than the drama of Lent. Though a season of penance, we often forget that Lent is also the ultimate celebration of the love of God. It is during these dark hours when the Son of Man felt the weight of sin crushing down on Him; it is during Lent that we commemorate the ultimate act of sacrifice and the final victory of the God-Man over the forces of hell.

J.R.R. Tolkien coined the word 'eucatastrophe' to refer to seemingly hopeless circumstances which ultimately have a glorious conclusion. Christ's Passion-- His murder at the hands of His own people, His being rejected by His own followers, His helplessness and meekness before the maddening crowd-- these are considered to be man's darkest hour in the Christian religion. Yet three days later, these events were forever overturned by the Resurrection, the greatest miracle in Christianity. More than a mere assertion of His prophecy of rising again after three days, the Resurrection of Christ cemented Christianity as something credible and incredible at the same time. As St. Paul says, had the Resurrection not happened, then Christians would be the most miserable of all men, the sorriest lot that ever did walk the face of the earth.

Lent is a celebration of this drama of salvation. Those forty days of mourning and penance, aside from atoning for our sins, are the ultimate expression of hope and faith. We believe that at the end of all the hardships, beatitude and glory await us. Sometimes, you only have to look at things from a different perspective. That awful tree that blocked my view of the moon only helped to make the sun shine all the clearer.


Francis said...
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Francis said...

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