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Posts tagged "Ash Wednesday Reflection"

The Ash Wednesday Immortality Bus

From our archives, the following piece by Ethan Richardson was originally published in 2017 — but the Immortality Bus is ageless. Buckle up… There was a dark horse in the 2016 presidential campaign that you missed. And what a shame! This gentleman really promised to turn things around, in ways no one else was talking about. […]

The Very Intersection of Love and Death

Grateful to share this Ash Wednesday sermon, by our friend Sam Bush: Well, in a beautiful twist of irony, this is the first time since 1945 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day have coincided. It’s such a bad pairing for a hybrid holiday that it makes you wonder if someone screwed up. The ultimate day […]

An Ash Wednesday Homily from JAZ

“For the first time in the history of humanity, many of us can live a life where our death might be the first death we see up close. We can die “neatly” in a hospital room with as much or as little family contact as our relationships demand. The cost of this is great: Death is no longer a part of life. Instead, it has become a devastating impossibility that always happens.” – Sarah Condon, Churchy

The Ash Wednesday Hit-Parade

It turns out that Ash Wednesday has inspired some of our favorite posts over the years–a bit ironic/hypocritical, given that the day doesn’t exactly encourage human pride. Nevertheless, in the spirit of Christian freedom, here’s a compilation of sorts to kick-start our observance of Lent together. Updated Ash Wednesday, 2020.


Anonymous posts, wrestling with the link between Ash Wednesday and the lack of rest:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:1)

Reflecting on Ash Wednesday itself:

B-MVa1-CcAE8JFg“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 6:16-18)

Ash Wednesday and Culture:

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Cor 9:22)

Ash Wednesday sermons:

Sleeping on Mortality: An Ash Wednesday Reflection

We continue our tradition of anonymous Ash Wednesday reflections on rest:

…the night cometh, when no man can work.

-John 9:4, KJV

TrueDetective_4Four hours last week, followed by a full day of breakneck productivity. Those of us who pride ourselves on working without sleep find solace in our indefatigable nocturnal spirits, sustained by too many cigarettes and too much caffeine. Sleep is the last frontier, someone once said. Humans only have to transcend our embarrassingly creaturely need for sleep, and we can double our productivity. As Roger Ekirch discusses in his recent At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, people used to see night as a time for vital rest and leisure, more than a mere “dormant interlude between working hours”, as he puts it, night in various times past was divided into ‘watches’, structured with an quasi-liturgical respect. I’m proud to need little sleep sometimes. It allows me to function outside the limits of the dead zone, an eight-hour interval which seems to shrink as the demand for productivity rises.

Sometimes it’s something productive, like a book or article. Other times, it’s one more beer, another cigarette on the porch, another episode of How I Met Your Mother. It’s as if leisure is some active salve that must be applied to a day’s work, and going to bed earlier can make you miss out on leisure, too. It’s effectively a fear of missing out. We’re overwhelmed by a bevvy of experiences during the day, and even more activity has to heal the stress. We procure this healing for ourselves with TV or other activities. Leaving things be is difficult. And if the day has been unfulfilling, we can delay going to sleep, admitting defeat; instead I want to re-raise the stakes with a losing hand, salvage the miniscule ante.

Sleep is a daily brush with death. It’s the closest we come to death’s passivity, that total negation of experience and selfhood. And yet death seems more inevitable so sleep, for now, is the last frontier: vanquish that and we have more time to fulfill ourselves, to develop into those ideal, actualized men and women we yearn to be. But it catches up: even if science finds some way to solve the lack of energy after a bad night’s sleep (or a full string of them), it will not be able to address the anxiety and grumpiness. That burden of selfhood and fulfillment-chasing does catch up, eventually.

Buy stock in Sleepytime® tea. We find it harder to sleep than ever now, and the aids we need progressively more of are selling, cropping up in new stores every day. With all our activity, the efficiency provided by computers and modeling and instruments and machinery, the one thing we’re getting worse at is sleep. It feels too much like death, because it sort of is. So much missing out, so many opportunities for achievement or leisure or self-fulfillment we are missing. On Ash Wednesday, we receive the imposition of ashes: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Life “imposes” sleep on us as a daily reminder of mortality. And that involuntary and unchosen imposition relieves us, above all, from our restless and irrepressible daily justifications. May we remember we are dust, and there find God’s rest.

God Bless the Insomniacs: Searching for Rest on Ash Wednesday

Another in a budding tradition of anonymous Ash Wednesday posts: A few years ago, an unnamed friend of Mockingbird wrote a stunning reflection on Ash Wednesday that struck a chord with me, if for no other reason than the title of the piece included the phrase “Written on the Occasion of a Sleepless Night.” Sleepless […]

Possibly Insane Thoughts on Ash Wednesday (Written on the Occasion of a Sleepless Night)

A close friend of Mockingbird contributes the following reflection on the meaning of the day, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it is a welcome and considerably more profound alternative to the (admittedly irresistible) irreverence with which we’ve treated (the “public displays of piety” which characterize) Lent in past years. A touching and personal defense […]