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The Marked Man – Ash Wednesday

March 2, 2006
I started today with another wonderful essay by Gerard Vanderleun: An Ash Wednesday Confession with Eliot’s Ash Wednesday.

BEING ONLY A MAN, I often tire of the endless things of man; of his
vanity and his violence which, as all the things of men must, resides
in me as well as in you.

Read it all I beg you. It set the tone for my whole day.

I love Lent. Being of the Protestant persuasion, even knowing what it is puts me in a minority. But enjoying it? That’s like enjoying setting the table more than the meal. No, I say, it is the meal. Easter is dessert.

Miserere mei, Deus.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
in your great compassion, blot out my offenses.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

These are not prayers that lend themselves easily to sentimentality. To live them is to be shaken to the core- to be woken up with a clarity that gives one resolve for the long haul.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done;
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty.

Accept our repentance, Lord.

These are the words from the Book of Common Prayer (and Psalm 51) that were spoken at church today. Simple, unadorned words. No manipulative music. Just words. Then ashes smeared in a cross on your forehead:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return

I raced there to the little stone church, out of my trailer at Warner
Bros., 80mph the whole way because I really, really needed to hear
those words. It was like some strange tryst. Then I received communion
and returned as quickly as I came.

It didn’t take long to realize that others were almost as uncomfortable as I was with this mark on my forehead.

"Hey it’s totally not hard to look at you with that stuff on your forehead."

"What is it?"

What is it indeed. The evangelical in me wanted to say more than what I did say.


It’s not just ash. It’s a sign of repentance, mortality, humility… the Grace of God.

"What is it?"

Manna. That’s what it is. Translated, I believe is "What is it?"

The Grace of God.

I shut the door and savored it for the rest of the day. How I wish I knew how to share it. The beginning though, is to let people know I have it.

I’m a marked man, and I’ve never felt more alive.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rob Prichard permalink
    March 10, 2006 4:53 pm

    That’s poetry, Man! We all need that manna…

    Maybe it’s like a mark on your door frame, a sign for the Lord to pass over you.

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