Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lenten stuff 2

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden


-T.S. Eliot, from "Ash Wednesday"

An old friend, a lapsed Roman Catholic, used to call Ash Wednesday "All Loons' Day". Today, as last year, I've chosen to bear the mark of the loon, though I'm still beset by the same doubts as when I posted a year ago. This year I approached the liturgy of the ashes with some urgency. Ash Wednesday (and, indeed, the whole succeeding forty day Lenten season) is for Christians what Yom Kippur is for Jews: a time for atonement, and atonement is what I felt I needed, in spades. (I won't burden you with why.)

As I've noted recently, I have great difficulty with the notion of "faith" as it is commonly understood in a Christian context; that is, as a willingness to suspend skepticism with regard to propositions that are not amenable to empirical testing. This may simply be a manifestation of a strong anti-authoritarian streak.

While riding the subway to my office, I remembered that T.S. Eliot had written a poem titled "Ash Wednesday". I found it through a web search, and realized that it expressed, as exemplified in the lines quoted above, one aspect of Christianity that I endorse without hesitation: its embrace of paradox. Why this appeals to me is something I'll have to save for a later post.