We believe that Love ignited a fire that created a universe, a constellation of flaming orbs, temporal, yet on a scale beyond our own short lease on this star. Love, however expressed, perceived or imagined, is the match that initiates life. And on life’s journey, we learn how Love behaves.
Love burns in innocence. Love burns in desire. Love is a lure, a journey, a destiny – a fire that creates, that directs, overwhelms, confuses, clarifies, simplifies, destroys, reveals. Love is a fire that requires stoking, provoking renewed passion, and the courage and strength to clear the smoke of uncertainty. Simply put by an anonymous songster …
“Gotta get the love back in my life,
(To) keep the fire burning.
Gotta find the pathway in this dark,
A light to find my long way home …”
No matter the myriad ways all life finds to keep the fire burning, we leave behind, along the way, the ash of all that has been, all that fed development and growth, creating space for a bigger and brighter fire. There is one thing all life knows, however. Life, though it burns like the star, is temporal.
Ash Wednesday is a ritualized acknowledgement of our temporal state, a moment carved out of our notions of time and space during which we are given the opportunity to see ourselves as we are – ultimately, dust and ashes.
While this awareness can be deeply felt as nihilism, the cosmic “whatever,” rendering all effort, all development and growth as meaningless, we do not stop there. Instead, the effort, the straining toward, the fraught journey forward finds new life and meaning in transformation – beyond conversion, beyond expiration. Because that is Love’s way. Ash Wednesday is the ritual launch of a time of purification, beginning with our understanding that all life is temporal. We burn with life until fully enveloped, fully consumed. What then? We burn, finally, in Love’s gathered purpose, to enter the orbit of life unending.
Reflection: Margo Morris, RSCJ
Photos: Fire by the late Georgi Blaeser, RSCJ; Sky by Margo Morris, RSCJ