Ashes to Ashes

  At the heart of Christianity are sinners. It is a matter of simple self-knowledge that we have done things we know we ought not to have done, and have not done the things we know we should have done. The only honest thing to do is to repent. And try to do better.

Lent feels like the stern winds of March, testing the barren branches, snapping off the dead ones, chilling the live ones to the inner juices of spring, calling them to awaken.

The Good News is that God is not only the immense power of the hurricane and the swollen turbulent rolling seas. He is not only the Source of all good, attracting all things by His Beauty, as Plato conceived of Him (Aristotle, too).

The Good News is that He invites poor humans, alone of all creatures, to walk with Him as friends — if we choose. No liberty, no real friendship.

To accept being a friend of the Almighty Who rules the seas and the explosions of stars, the coming to be and the dissolution of vast galaxies — there is a destiny difficult to believe. It is obviously one of which we are in no way worthy. It is fear-causing, stunning us into silence.

For this reason, too, all around this hurtling Earth, Christians today wear ashes on our foreheads, in repentance for our many sins and in wonderment.

The able ones fast lightly and abstain from eating meat, to break from normal routines, as if to feel the cutting winds of this season calling the dead greens back toward life.

Read the entire symposium here.

Published in National Review Online February 26, 2009