Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday


Today is the first day of lent, known as Ash Wednesday. Once again, I am drawn to think of one of my favorite novels, Walker Percy's The Moviegoer. The book, mostly set in New Orleans and on the Mississippi Coast, begins during Mardi Gras and climaxes on Ash Wednesday. One of the most haunting scenes in the book is when the protagonist, Binx, sees a man who has just come from a church with ashes on his forehead. This symbol of penance and redemption is very powerful in this book where despair doesn't even know that it is despair (to paraphrase the Kierkegaard quote that is the novel's epigraph).

Another Lenten literary treasure is T.S. Eliot's beautiful poem Ash Wednesday.
An excerpt:

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

It is well worth your time to find a copy of this poem (available all over the web or from the library) as we begin this season of springtime reflection.

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