National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Lent 2004 -- Reflection
Issue Date:  March 26, 2004

-- KRT/Shane Keyser

Receive the ashes, but taste the honey


A few years back during Lent I had a dream; when I woke up I recorded it exactly as I remembered it, with no flourishes, in the form of a poem:

Upon Waking, A Lenten Dream

I walk to the front of a synagogue, take
a seat.
(You cross your arms, stay standing in
The congregants line up, come forward.
A rabbi smudges a circle of ash on each
I am thinking: I already received ashes
on Wednesday.
I am thinking: I didn’t know the Jews had such a ceremony.
I am thinking: Why am I surprised? So
much of what we imagine
We invented was in fact inherited from
the Jews.
Then a cantor, a woman, approaches me.
She opens a tin of honey, holds out the
Taste, she says, and I touch the gold
liquid, touch my tongue.
Before she moves on, she says, “You
must learn
To accept sweetness as you have accepted
(And you? As always you stand detached.
Evading. Avoiding. The honey. The ash.)





So, it’s not enough: to receive the ashes, to ponder our own inevitable deaths, to remember those who died at the hands of death squads or SS guards or those incinerated by bombs built with our own tax dollars. We ponder, remember and repent but we don’t stop there. We taste the honey, celebrating the sweetness of life witnessed in a kind act, a work of art, the sky on a beautiful day, an unexpected victory in the struggle for justice. We honor the dead by celebrating life, loving it so deeply that we find it within ourselves to create a world without holocausts. Sin? We sin when we “stand detached,” imagining we are above needing others. Only in community do we have the strength to partake of both ash and honey, and to cultivate a dream of a whole world.

Demetria Martinez is the author of three collections of poetry and a novel, Mother Tongue.

National Catholic Reporter, March 26, 2004

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: