Sunday, February 26, 2017
Burying the Alleluias. . .
We bury the Alleluias during Lent to remind us that this is a time not of parties and celebration but of repentance and meditation upon the cross. This is shocking to us because we have come to believe that life is supposed to be happy -- one lifelong celebration of good times. Today we bury that thought and on Ash Wednesday, one of the most solemn days in the Church Year, we come wearing the external ashes of our inward repentance. Here we acknowledge that we are sinners, sinful both by nature because of the Fall and by thought, word, and deed -- both in the evil done and the good left undone.
Historically Christians have buried their alleluias today and been marked with ashes on Ash Wednesday as external signs of the call to inner restraint, self-control, and struggle against sin -- the fruit of the Spirit and of repentance.
Scripture is replete for seasons or times of repentance. The Old Testament calendar included them and so does our Church Year today. There is a time to put distance between us and this world, to mourn the sin the world denies, to put on ashes even though the world tries to wish away its disappointment or trouble. What does St. John tells us, 'Do not love the world, nor the things of the world. Whoever is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. Friendship with the world is death.' This fallen world is a world filled with temptations for a fallen people. What does St. Paul do? St. Paul tells us he restrained his body as if it were a boxing opponent that could only be subdued by blows. St. Paul knew that although all things may be lawful, not all things are beneficial. He refused to allow himself to be governed by raw desire. He beat down desire to be governed by the Spirit and the Word. We put aside or bury our Alleluias for the same reason. As the collect we have prayed so often puts it, it is our daily prayer 'to so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.'