by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter March 7, 2019

I still have ashes on my forehead from Wednesday. I find myself washing my face carefully to keep them there a little longer. Our service of imposing ashes remains one of the most emotional for me, as your pastor. Leaning forward and offering a blessing, one that names both death and real life, is meaningful and weighty. For some, it is always their first time to receive ashes, and for others, it will be among their last and they, and I, know it. This moment provides the space for both idealism and realism both, the space to see and to see what could be.

Find comfort in this Ash Wednesday reflection from T.S. Elliot.


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 aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
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 blessed 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 judgment 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.