Year of Sundays

Year of Sundays


Ash Wednesday: Because Sunday Just Isn’t Enough

posted by Joel Gunz

With Jules, one of our favorite blog commenters, who boldly invited us to hear her lovely choir at St. Mary's. Yep, I lined up to get the smudge, FTW!

You may already know how keen I am on the idea of getting up on Sunday morning and going to church just to be told what a lousy, sinning piece of crap I am. So why would I put myself through that in the middle of the week?

I did it for you, dear reader.

You’re welcome.

Ash Wednesday only comes once a year (thank God!) and it’s conveniently tucked in after Shrove Tuesday, a.k.a. Mardis Gras (Hallelujah!). It kicks off the 40-day lent period during which Catholics and members of a few other churches swear off something they hold near and dear. According to a quick Google search, it’s a personal sacrifice that could include (but is not limited to) taking a break from:

Coffee, Internet use, red meat, white meat, chocolate, saying the “F” word, doing the “F” word, cigarettes, shopping at Nordstrom, browsing the QVC channel, beer, thinking not-nice thoughts, reality TV, OK Cupid, heavy metal, heavy sarcasm, heavy petting, Facebook, Diet Coke, tortilla chips, Twitter and pancakes.

Why do this? Because Lent is a time for reflection and repentance from sin. (If you went to church, you’d already know this, sinner!) When you attend the Ash Wednesday service, the priest will even smudge a cross of black ashes on your forehead — a throw-back to the Bible-times practice of showing repentance by putting ashes on your head. You’re supposed to keep it there until it wears off, but with rain in the forecast, I decided to cut my penance short.

We attended the service at St. Mary’s Cathedral. And, yes, it was all about sin and kneeling before the Holy Word of The Lord whenever a snippet of scripture was read. But the choir was off-the-hook amazing. Humble repentance in pitch-perfect, four part harmony. It made me want to sin some more just so I could come back for some more forgiving hymns.

My gateway to learning about Ash Wednesday wasn’t through church, but, rather, T. S. Eliot. And, just for the helliot, I thought I’d share his poem, “Ash Wednesday,” which is his personal take on cessation from sin and materialistic striving. It has as much in common with the Buddhistic concept of Nirvana as it does with the precepts of the Anglican church, to which he’d converted when he wrote the damn thing.

Fans of the prophet Ezekiel or of blues spirituals might catch his reference to “Dem Dry Bones”; and if you’ve read 1 Kings 19:1–8 or the Grimm Brothers’ “The Juniper Tree,” you’ll get another one of Eliot’s trademark inside jokes.

Ash Wednesday” weighs in at 1599 words, so pour yourself a cup of coffee (if you haven’t given it up for Lent). The closing lines are sort of well known, and they’re even better if you’ve read the poem from the beginning. If you prefer, you can even invite T. S. into your computer, where he can read the poem directly to you.  Anyway, enjoy the poem and quit sinning, you crappy piece of crap!

h Wednesday: Because Sunday Just Isn’t Enough

 

You may already know how keen I am on the idea of getting up on Sunday morning and going to church just to be told what lousy, sinning piece of shit I am. So why would I put myself through that in the middle of the week?

 

I did it for you, dear reader.

 

You’re welcome.

 

Ash Wedenesday only comes once a year (thank God!) and it’s conveniently tucked in after Shrove Tuesday, a.k.a. Mardis Gras (Hallelujah!). It kicks off the 40-day lent period during which Catholics and members of a few other churches swear off something they hold near and dear. According to a quick Google search, it’s a personal sacrifice that could include (but is not limited to) taking a break from:

 

Coffee, Internet use, red meat, white meat, chocolate, saying “fuck”, fucking, cigarettes, shopping at Nordstrom, browsing the QVC channel, beer, thinking not-nice thoughts, reality TV, OK Cupid, heavy metal, heavy sarcasm, heavy petting, Facebook, Diet Coke, tortilla chips, Twitter and pancakes.

 

Why do this? Because Lent is a time for reflection and repentance from sin. (If you went to church, you’d already know this, sinner!) When you attend the Ash Wednesday service, the priest will even smudge a cross of black ashes on your forehead, a throw-back to the Bible-times practice of showing repentance by putting ashes on your head. You’re supposed to keep it there until it wears off, but with rain in the forecast, I decided to cut my penance short.

 

We attended the service at St. Mary’s Cathedral http://maryscathedral.com/. And, yes, it was all about sin and kneeling before the Holy Word of The Lord whenever a snippet of scripture was read. But the choir was off-the-hook amazing. Humble repentance in pitch-perfect, four part harmony. It made me want to sin some more just so I could come back for more forgiveness.

 

My gateway to Ash Wednesday wasn’t through church, but, rather, T. S. Eliot. And, just for the helliot, I thought I’d share his poem, “Ash Wednesday,” which is his personal take on cessation from sin and materialistic striving and shares as much in common with the Buddhistic concept of Nirvana http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana as it does with the precepts of the Anglican church, to which he’d converted when he wrote the damn thing.

 

Fans of the prophet Ezekiel or of blues spirituals might catch his reference to “Dem Dry Bones”; and if you’ve read 1 Kings 19:1–8 or the Grimm Brothers’ “The Juniper Tree,” you’ll get another one of Eliot’s trademark inside jokes.

 

“Ash Wednesday” weighs in at 1599 words, so pour yourself a cup of coffee (if you haven’t given it up for Lent). But the closing lines really are worth it, and they’re even better if you’ve read the poem from the beginning. If you prefer, you can even invite T. S. into your computer, where he can read the poem directly to you! http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xc5zoo_t-s-eliot-ash-wednesday_creation Anyway, enjoy the poem and quit sinning, you shitty piece of shit!

 

ASH WEDNESDAY

 

I

 

Because I do not hope to turn again

Because I do not hope

Because I do not hope to turn

Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope

I no longer strive to strive towards such things

(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)

Why should I mourn

The vanished power of the usual reign?

 

Because I do not hope to know

The infirm glory of the positive hour

Because I do not think

Because I know I shall not know

The one veritable transitory power

Because I cannot drink

There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is

nothing again

 

Because I know that time is always time

And place is always and only place

And what is actual is actual only for one time

And only for one place

I rejoice that things are as they are and

I renounce the blessèd face

And renounce the voice

Because I cannot hope to turn again

Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something

Upon which to rejoice

 

And pray to God to have mercy upon us

And pray that I may forget

These matters that with myself I too much discuss

Too much explain

Because I do not hope to turn again

Let these words answer

For what is done, not to be done again

May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

 

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly

But merely vans to beat the air

The air which is now thoroughly small and dry

Smaller and dryer than the will

Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.

 

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death

Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

 

 

II

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree

In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity

On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been

contained

In the hollow round of my skull. And God said

Shall these bones live? shall these

Bones live? And that which had been contained

In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:

Because of the goodness of this Lady

And because of her loveliness, and because

She honours the Virgin in meditation,

We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled

Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love

To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.

It is this which recovers

My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions

Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn

In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.

Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.

There is no life in them. As I am forgotten

And would be forgotten, so I would forget

Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said

Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only

The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping

With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

 

Lady of silences

Calm and distressed

Torn and most whole

Rose of memory

Rose of forgetfulness

Exhausted and life-giving

Worried reposeful

The single Rose

Is now the Garden

Where all loves end

Terminate torment

Of love unsatisfied

The greater torment

Of love satisfied

End of the endless

Journey to no end

Conclusion of all that

Is inconclusible

Speech without word and

Word of no speech

Grace to the Mother

For the Garden

Where all love ends.

 

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining

We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each

other,

Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,

Forgetting themselves and each other, united

In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye

Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity

Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

 

 

 

III

 

At the first turning of the second stair

I turned and saw below

The same shape twisted on the banister

Under the vapour in the fetid air

Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears

The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

 

At the second turning of the second stair

I left them twisting, turning below;

There were no more faces and the stair was dark,

Damp, jaggèd, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond

repair,

Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

 

At the first turning of the third stair

Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit

And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene

The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green

Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.

Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,

Lilac and brown hair;

Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind

over the third stair,

Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair

Climbing the third stair.

 

 

Lord, I am not worthy

Lord, I am not worthy

 

but speak the word only.

 

IV

Who walked between the violet and the violet

Whe walked between

The various ranks of varied green

Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,

Talking of trivial things

In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour

Who moved among the others as they walked,

Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

 

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand

In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,

Sovegna vos

 

Here are the years that walk between, bearing

Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring

One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

 

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.

The new years walk, restoring

Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring

With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem

The time. Redeem

The unread vision in the higher dream

While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

 

The silent sister veiled in white and blue

Between the yews, behind the garden god,

Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke

no word

 

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down

Redeem the time, redeem the dream

The token of the word unheard, unspoken

 

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

 

And after this our exile

 

 

V

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent

If the unheard, unspoken

Word is unspoken, unheard;

Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,

The Word without a word, the Word within

The world and for the world;

And the light shone in darkness and

Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled

About the centre of the silent Word.

 

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

 

Where shall the word be found, where will the word

Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence

Not on the sea or on the islands, not

On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,

For those who walk in darkness

Both in the day time and in the night time

The right time and the right place are not here

No place of grace for those who avoid the face

No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny

the voice

 

Will the veiled sister pray for

Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,

Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,

time and time, between

Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait

In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray

For children at the gate

Who will not go away and cannot pray:

Pray for those who chose and oppose

 

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

 

Will the veiled sister between the slender

Yew trees pray for those who offend her

And are terrified and cannot surrender

And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks

In the last desert before the last blue rocks

The desert in the garden the garden in the desert

Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

 

 

O my people.

 

 

VI

Although I do not hope to turn again

Although I do not hope

Although I do not hope to turn

 

Wavering between the profit and the loss

In this brief transit where the dreams cross

The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying

(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things

From the wide window towards the granite shore

The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying

Unbroken wings

 

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices

In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices

And the weak spirit quickens to rebel

For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell

Quickens to recover

The cry of quail and the whirling plover

And the blind eye creates

The empty forms between the ivory gates

And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

 

This is the time of tension between dying and birth

The place of solitude where three dreams cross

Between blue rocks

But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away

Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

 

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit

of the garden,

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still

Even among these rocks,

Our peace in His will

And even among these rocks

Sister, mother

And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,

Suffer me not to be separated

 

And let my cry come unto Thee.



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Comments read comments(7)
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Sheena

posted July 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm


Hey there! Thanks for the posts. Your project is a great idea-thanks for being so open minded. I was raised Catholic and I’ve shopped around myself for a community of church goers who were like-minded in that their “faith” didn’t just earn them Jesus points or donuts post service, but one that moves the believer to act on this faith and to invest in the community. Anyway, I’d love to invite you to check out the community that is the Downtown Chapel. For a little context, I’ve provided the web site. And since you are willing to do Wednesdays, why not a Friday? That was my first intro to “DTC” or the Downtown Chapel, spending time at the Brother Andre Cafe on Friday night and then for a year of Friday mornings at the Hospitality Center. Sundays are just fine, too, especially “Undie Sunday.”



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Joel Gunz

posted March 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm


Maybe he gave up AA. ;)



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foulmouthedpastorswife

posted March 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm


when i was bartending at a pub a man came in with a little bit of ash on his face (yes, i purposely made it sound like that). one of my co-workers approached me, “um, why hasn’t that dude’s friends told him he has shit on his face?” my response, “you should go tell him he has shit on his face…” then, because at times i can be kind i said, “no, don’t do that….” and explained ash wednesday to her. the guy pounded a lot of beers and was swearing almost as bad as i do, so i was curious what exactly he gave up for lent. i didn’t ask, but i’m pretty sure it wasn’t ash on his face.



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Joel Gunz

posted March 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm


Dan, I knew you weren’t going to take this post sitting down!



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Dan

posted March 13, 2011 at 12:55 am


“Anyway, enjoy the poem and quit sinning, you shitty piece of shit!”

Ah, Joel, your ability to pull back the curtain and show things exactly how you see them is always refreshing. As one defecant to another, let me say: when you give up your sinning, I’ll consider giving up mine. Consider, mind you. i’ve become rather attached to a few of my vices. You know, something marvelous happened as I escaped the bowels of religiosity, I feel a lot less guilty. . .and a lot more content. Well, it’s late and I’m wiped. Until next time…



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted March 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm


Jules, I sincerely apologize for my boobs. I always forget to watch the cleavage around midget penguins!

I’m still working on my post! Joel beat me to the punch. Stupid day job!



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Jules

posted March 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm


You wiped it off? Wuss. ;)

Glad you enjoyed the choir-though I’m surprised you could hear us with all your sinful thoughts running through your head!

So-what’s wrong with being a sinner? We’re human. We sin. It’s what we do. It’s no big deal. But if you’re a Christian-you want to recognize your sins and ask forgiveness. And ask for help to change. Religious or not-I think most of us strive to be better people as we age-we just ask for some help from above.

If you’re not a Christian-then I suppose I can see why you kinda take offense at the message (though the Catholic Church is a far cry from a Fire and Brimstone kind of church. We just hit you with a bit (or a lot) of guilt.) More of a “we’re not worthy-but thanks for your forgiveness” than “You’re damned to Hell!” I don’t mind my “catholic guilt”-it’s how I know when I’m doing something I shouldn’t be. You might call it a conscience. But I think my Catholic guilt might be a bit more strict than your conscience.

And finally-thanks so much for the picture above (sheesh-I never put my pic on my own blog!). Nothing like looking like a midget penguin! Really glad you came in all your sinful glory. And I’ll probably be blasted for using the word midget. Well-I’M SORRY! Little-person penguin didn’t sound right. I’ll just put that one down on the list for my next confession, okay?



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