My school has a priest who works out of our Interfaith Student Centre, and today he was doing the ash thing. Now, coming out of a decidedly non-liturgical background--much to my detriment I have concluded--lent has never been a big deal beyond the annual ribbing of my dad for liturgical calender info based on his 'Catholic' upbringing. To be honest, I have only the vaguest understanding of what the ashes are for. What I do know, however, is that at school today I did not go to the Interfaith Centre, and did not get the ashes from the priest. Was this meant as an act of defiance? Hardly. I'd chalk it up instead to a combination of about 80% forgetfulness, 12% little attachment to the tradition, and 8% my not being Catholic.
On my way home though, I felt compelled to participate at least a little in my own way. The first ash-like substance available to me was the sedimentary leftovers of the filling in a cracked sidewalk. As this was what was immediately available, I reached down and took a little on my finger, which I then applied in a smeared cross onto my forehead. At first I didn't give much thought to what significance, if any, there is in using leftover urban building materials, but my undergraduate pretentiousness got the better of me. If there is anywhere that Christ resides in our world, it must be in the seemingly useless leftovers of the urban mess. If indeed there is no big Other at the end of these forty days who is going to give me a pat on the back and an "Admit One" golden ticket then perhaps my forty days should be about communing with the world as it is. Looking down and in, not up and out, as it were.
Ramblings? Most definitely. Will follow up later. Welcome to lent everybody.