Obviously we like to spend most of our time here at American Jesus on the lighter side of life, but every once in a while we like to pause to highlight moments when the grace of God shines through our many imperfections.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent in the church which culminates on Easter Sunday. Those of us that attended an Ash Wednesday service yesterday left with ashes shaped like a cross on our foreheads. The ashes are a call to repentence and a reminder of our mortality. What many of us may not realize is that those ashes come from the palm branches we waived at Easter the year before when we celebrated the resurrection. For most of us this interplay of life, death, and resurrection is mostly symbolic, a hope we proclaim for the future.
For those Christians living in Haiti this year Ash Wednesday was a very different experience. The interplay of life, death, and resurrection in Haiti isn’t simply a theological expression it is daily life. So, as we begin a new season of Lent in the church what better place to be reminded of “realness” of the faith than through a people who came to Ash Wednesday already covered in ashes.
Presiding bishop urges Haitian Episcopalians to move towards resurrection
By Mary Frances Schjonberg, March 10, 2011
Saying that the people of Haiti know about ashes and dust, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined Haitian EpiscopaliansMarch 9 to begin the season of Lent in a place where she found signs of resurrection.
“People here are reminded of grief wherever we turn, grief that still sits heavy alongside the piles of ashes and dust,” she said. “When those piles really begin to disappear, hope emerges in their place.”
The ashes and dust at the start of Lent can serve as a reminder that God can create a new thing out of destruction, she said, preaching in French during an Ash Wednesday morning service under a wall-less shelter adjacent to the diocese’s Holy Trinity Cathedral. The cathedral was destroyed Jan. 12, 2010 by the magnitude-7 earthquake that devastated large parts of Haiti.
“Last year, we encouraged you to understand that Lent had already come” in the weeks just after the earthquake, Jefferts Schori said, “and that the task was to look for resurrection everywhere.” This year, she acknowledged, life in Haiti is still difficult and uncertain but, she said, there are signs of resurrection in the work that Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin and others have begun in the diocese. The body of Christ, Jefferts Schori said, has come together in solidarity for the work of reconstruction.
“This cathedral will stand again,” she said. “Its art will once again feed the hearts and spirits of this nation — and of the world.” [The full text of the sermon is available here.]
Duracin had said during a gathering at his home earlier in the week that “it is very symbolic” for Jefferts Schori to be with Haitian Episcopalians at the start of Lent this year. Duracin said that the presiding bishop had “walked with us” through the death-filled days after the earthquake, and had now returned to be with the diocese to begin a journey that ends with Easter and the promise of new life.
Praising the diocese’s nascent effort to rebuild, Jefferts Schori urged the congregation to become healers of the broken body of Haiti. “These buildings are precious, but the body of Christ is even more precious as it seeks healing for itself and for the world around it,” she said.
**If you’re stilling looking for something to sacrifice for Lent this year, we want to encourage you to consider sacrificing your money and/or time to help the people of Haiti. They are still in desperate need.