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A Simple Ash Wednesday Offering

A Simple Ash Wednesday Offering

 

I offer this reflection by Tim Mathiessen (The Snow Leopard, p. 169, Penguin Books, copyright 1978) as consistent with Ash Wednesday, when the priest marks your forehead with ashes using the same cross that marked your forehead with oil at baptism, this time reflecting the transient nature of human existence. You are dust, and to dust you shall return. Absent grace, where is the meaning?

“The Sherpas start down immediately; they, too, seem oppressed by so much emptiness. Left alone, I am overtaken by that northern void – no wind, no cloud, no track, no bird, only the crystal crescents between peaks, the ringing monuments of rock that, freed from the talons of ice and snow, thrust an implacable being into the blue. In the early light, the rock shadows on the snow are sharp; in the tension between, between light and dark, is the power of the universe. This stillness to which all returns, this is reality, and soul and sanity have no more meaning here than a gust of snow; such transience and insignificance are exalting, terrifying, all at once, like the sudden discovery in meditation, of one’s own transparence. Snow mountains, more than sea or sky, serve as a mirror to one’s own true being, utterly still, utterly clear, a void, an Emptiness without life or sound that carries in Itself all life, all sound. Yet as long as I remain an “I” who is conscious of the void and stands apart from it, there will remain a snow mist on the mirror.”

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