"Ashes present a great diminishment away from the living tree with its huge crown and its abundant shade. The recognition of this diminishment is a proper experience for men who are over thirty. If the man doesn't experience that diminishment sharply, he will retain his inflation, and continue to identify himself with all in him that can fly: his sexual drive, his mind, his refusal to commit himself, his addiction, his transcendence, his coolness. The coolness of some American men means that they have skipped ashes." ― Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men
I don't know the female experience in life. I do know what it means to be a man. Robert Bly is one voice who seeks to help men escape the bonds of a false and destructive masculinity. Many men call this "ashes work." If you are male, let's talk!
"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" we say graveside at the loss of a loved one. "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." we say on Ash Wednesday as ashes are smeared on our forehead.
Ashes are nothing. They are what is left once all light, life and energy has been removed from an object. In ancient times people would cover themselves with sackcloth and ashes, not as a sign of their worthlessness, but of their emptiness and impotence before the power of the Divine. Only out of such a matrix is resurrection and new life possible.
I don't know the female equivalent to "ashes work." I do know what it means, though, to stand at the grave of what was once a vibrant partner in life from whom all light, life and energy has been drained.
This coming Wednesday, February 22, 2023, you are invited to church at either 10:30 AM or 6:00 PM for the "imposition of ashes." At that time we will smear truth on your forehead and inaugurate a journey of 40 days that starts in nothingness and ends in death. Do not fear, though. It is also the road that leads to life.
Pastor Dave Brauer-Rieke
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