S e n t i r e C u m E c c l e s i a

"To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What seems to me to be white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Spouse, there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the salvation of our souls..." - Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius [365]

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ash Wednesday: From Dust Unto Dust

+ Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday, a day that ushers in the liturgical season of Lent. In today’s liturgy, we will mark ourselves with ashes. But how can we best describe the rich meaning of this celebration?

+ I remember a phrase often quoted: “The externals reflect the internal.” I believe this phrase speaks very well of our Ash Wednesday observance. Later we will mark ourselves with the ashes which will be blessed by Father in this Mass. But what do these ashes on our foreheads symbolize? What is the meaning of these ashes on our foreheads?

+ I suggest that we consider what the minister will say as he imposes the ashes on our foreheads. First, the ashes speak of repentance and a desire for amendment. To“Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel.” The ashes on our foreheads speak so vividly of our desire, perhaps the grace that we are begging for this Lenten Season: To turn away from sin and to have faith in the Gospel. We Catholics through the ages love and treasure rituals and symbols. These rituals and symbols are attemtps to bring that which is intangible into the level of tangibility, to somehow make that which is incomprehensible comprehensible. The ashes on our foreheads will symbolize our desire to renew and be renewed. Today's liturgy will somehow "ritualize", as it were, our longing to truly leave the life of sin behind and to embrace the newness of life that Jesus offers all of us. We long for new life deep in our hearts; the ashes serve as "marks" of this desire.

+ Second, the ashes depict acceptance. The ashes on our foreheads manifest our humility to accept that we are nothing: We come from dust and to dust we shall return. An insight that without God, we are nothing. Our existence is contingent; we share in God's existence. Perhaps this sums up the invitation of the Lenten season to all of us. To constantly acknowledge that without God we are nothing. We need God in our lives. Our talents, efforts, and achievements mean nothing if we do not have God. Only God gives us true meaning in our existence. Without God we are nothing, we are dust!

+ Jesuits are known for being heswitic, in other words, mayabang! Why? Kasi malakas daw ang bilib sa sarili. Let me share a personal insight with you regarding my own process of realization about my “nothingness,” a humble acceptance that I am dust and that I need God in my life. I wrote this in my blog on February 11, 2006, four years ago when I was a Jesuit Junior.

+ I don't know but I just feel lonely and empty these past few days. It was as if religious life and the thrills and frills of it have died down. What fill my mind are the tasks and requirements to accomplish and submit, not to mention my personal concerns and worries. I feel at this point spiritually "dry" and devoid of consolation.

Well, I must admit that perhaps my lonely days are here again. Days when community and apostolic life seem colorless, less exciting. It's as if I find difficulty in finding meaning from the things that I do, from the circumstances that I am in.

It was this point that made me think and pray more deeply the question that every vowed person has ever asked: "Is religious life really for me?" The question that is playing in my mind right now. I thought that after my profession of perpetual first vows, I will be happy ever after as a Jesuit. Yet, trying times come, I am burdened. And as I dragged my feet to the chapel to pray, asking God and storming heaven with my countless questions and search for truth, a song gently played in my mind... in my heart. Maging akin muli. It seemed that in the midst of all the uncertainties that I am feeling right now, with all the dryness and the seeming absence of consolation that drew my heart to doubt, God has only three words to say... Maging akin muli.

And as I muse about the lyrics of the song, tranquility slowly crept in. God's assuring and abiding presence filled my being. Yes, maging kanya muli. And as I allowed the song to speak to the very core of my being, I am once again awed by the kind of God that I have...

Maging Akin Muli
Arnel dC Aquino, S.J.

Manlamig man sa akin, puso mong maramdamin,
Lisanin man ng tuwa puso mong namamanglaw,
Manginig man sa takot masindakin mong puso,
Mag-ulap man sa lungkot diwa mong mapag-imbot.

Kapiling mo Akong laging naghihintay sa tanging taag mo.
Pag-ibig kong ito isang pananabk sa puso Ko.
Sa 'yong pagbabalik sa piling kong puspos ng pagsuyo.
Manahimik at makinig ka't maging Akin muli.

Di mo rin akalain tinig mo'y hanap Ko rin.
Ang 'yong tuwa at sakit, Aking galak at pait.
Kung lingid pa sa iyo, Aking pakikiloob,
Tuklasin mong totoo: tunay mong pagkatao.

Kapiling mo Akong laging naghihintay sa tanging taag mo.
Pag-ibig kong ito isang pananabk sa puso Ko.
Sa 'yong pagbabalik sa piling kong puspos ng pagsuyo.
Manahimik at makinig ka't maging Akin muli.

However, in the middle of prayer, I begin to remember not so good days in the Society -- the tensions of community life, disagreements with peers, discomfort with having to live with someone you would rather not be associated with, the pressures of academic and apostolic endeavors, etc... -- Yet serenity still enchants my being. I begin to see the magnanimity of my God's compassion... of my God's love.

I believe that I am invited by my God to simply trust... to cast my cares and my processes to His feet. He will take care of them. An invitation that encourages me to allow Him to be God, to allow Him to once again captivate my heart with His wondrous love. Maging akin muli... yes, Lord... grant me the grace to be truly Yours...forever.

+ Dear brethren, the ashes that will be imposed upon our foreheads will speak for one reality in our life: We are nothing… we need God. But even if we are nothing, despite the fact that we are dust – useless, worthless, sometimes senseless – God still loves us and will continue to love us.

+ Lent then invites us to stop awhile, reflect, pray, and ultimately go back to God. As we struggle to reach God, we "fall" in His love, we rest secure in His presence. We pray then that the whole Lenten season for us be an experience of going back to God, and ultimately, rest secure in His fervent love which He perfectly expressed in the cross. God bless you!


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