During my seven years at St. Joesph's Convent P.O.S., my Alma Mater, this day began with the celebration of Holy Mass in our school chapel. The image of hundreds of us girls in our white shirts and blue skirts lining up dutifully to receive a cross of ashes on the forehead is forever etched in my mind's eye. Attendance was pretty much mandatory if you were Catholic. No sudden conversions were allowed: so if you were planning an escape from this particular liturgical school celebration, you would have had to declare and maintain your defection from the fold at least a year in advance. Why was it mandatory? Well because Ash Wednesday in Trinidad means that the island has just celebrated two days (just prior) of intense revelry in its annual carnival. And the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny who ran our school were adamant that if you could wassail for two days straight, you could get your a$$ out of bed at the crack of dawn on Ash Wednesday to atone for the host (pardon the pun) of sins you most likely just committed and think about what you were going to sacrifice for the next forty days of Lent. Which brings me to my topic for today: the subject of sacrifice. I've never really liked the aura of that word. I felt it to be paradoxically self-indulgent, carrying with it the taint of a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) "holy pride". Or at least quite superficial, where what was being "given up" was really mostly about a temporal thing like losing weight (no cake for 40 days-"a moment on the lips, forever on the hips") or helping your skin (because it is a medical truism that chocolate digests directly into large zits in obvious places). Or often it is liberally spiked with martyrdom, where everyone who comes within a 25 mile radius is acquainted with just how much voluntary suffering is being undertaken. However, in honour of this day, which begins the countdown to the ultimate sacrifice of the Christ, I've decided to review the concept more kindly, and examine its expanded possibilities. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject. It seems to me that when True Sacrifice is made, it is actually a very quiet thing. And True Sacrifice is hallmarked by its willingness to sacrifice the ego first and foremost: offering it up on the altar of the heart, with the Divine as First Witness. And so, I would offer for your consideration that the physical crucifixion and death of Jesus was actually NOT His Big Sacrifice. I think that happened just before he died up there on that cross, when he whispered: "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do". I imagine, having been betrayed by those closest to him, having been tortured, having been shamed, it would have been so easy to instead utter a powerful curse that brought down the fury of the heavens. It would have been so "human" and understandable for him to have died riddled with bitterness and self-righteous anger, instead of compasssion and forgiveness toward those who essentially murdered him both by their actions and their inaction. But this is where his Divinity declared itself. Christ showed us the Way, The Truth and The Life of Real Sacrifice. For me, today's Ashes are representative of the dust which remains when pride and I-consciousness are burned in the flames of devotion and service. They are also a reminder that all which is material is ultimately being sacrificed to time and that the only thing that will endure, that will rise again out of the Ashes, is our Love. How much we loved, how well we loved, how we loved when it was difficult, when we let love in, how we let it win, how we bowed our heads and let go of the desire to be right, but instead were kind and forgiving. I conclude that this is the hallmark of sacrifice, its stamp of authenticity: Love. So, in light of my newfound fondness for 'sacrifice', for the next 40 days, I am going to give up.....hahahaha....caught ya! I can't tell you, silly, I just have to show you :-).
I am a field of awareness. Any thing beyond that is identification with form...