Reflections on an intriguing liturgical juxtaposition

Today is February 14th which as everyone knows is Valentine’s Day, but it is also Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent a very strange occurrence that has me ruminating over the significance of this intriguing liturgical juxtaposition of the church calendar with Hallmark. As an artist I find metaphors fascinating and to me the sharing of a day creates an interesting metaphor. At the surface Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday are opposites. Valentine’s day is about joy and life and love and romance, while Ash Wednesday is about mortality and waiting and fasting and mourning. Yet as I plumb the depths of possible significance in this unique metaphor I find tasty morsels that titillate my taste buds of understanding.
In the big picture, Ash Wednesday is the kickoff to a season of longing and mourning over the absence of the Bridegroom. The narrative of Christianity, and ultimately reality itself, is a man, the God-man Jesus Christ, coming from the far country to rescue his bride. Marriage is an overarching theme starting in the garden and culminating in the marriage supper of the Lamb. God has woven mystery into the very fiber of our universe and our human lives. The Lenten season is a microcosm of this whole age of longing and waiting. Pining over our Bridegroom and desiring our glorious consummation in the age to come. This narrative of redemptive marriage is a subversive retelling of our cultural sense of love and romance as light and fluffy, young puppy love romance and unbridled passion. The subversive story telling of Lent reminds us that death is a weighty and present reality, that things are not as they should be and that Love is not frilly. Rather Lent reminds us that love is more mysterious than we thought, that it cannot be quenched by many waters and that it is stronger than death! Love endures all things and love never ends! Love is not escapist or the wearing of rose colored glasses, but rather the deep current of redemption flowing through the fabric of the universe with the promise “I make all things new” turning every form of suffering and anguish into an ultimate servant of good and glory for the people of God–those who love him and are called according to his purpose. So while the world might be confused and mortified by our seemingly morose declaration of our mortality and “dust-ness” on this day of love we recognize the truer, deeper love story at play in our redemptive drama that accounts for and considers all the brokenness in our world, yet in hope. May this fascinating juxtaposition of clashing world views take us deeper into an appreciation of the all consuming, never ending, mysterious love of our God and Savior Jesus Christ! May we all the more long for, look for, and hasten the day of His appearing. And finally lets continue telling the better love story we have as Christians to a culture gone mad on shallow frivolity, escapist illusion, and hopeless passion. The ashes on our foreheads reveal a more glorious love than all the candy and paper hearts could ever attain. May we relish anew our glorious Bridegroom and long more deeply for his appearing as we cry out for the restoration of all things. There’s gonna be a wedding! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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