Feb. 14 will be Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent when an estimated 2 billion Christians worldwide will mark their foreheads with burnt palm ashes in the shape of a cross as a sign of humility and mortality.
They also mark their foreheads as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin and the wrongs that humankind perpetrates against itself, and against the ancient covenants between humanity and the one who they acknowledge as the creator and author of life.
February 14 will also be (Saint) Valentine’s Day when our hearts are opened in a special way, full to bursting with love in all its aspects, notably between romantic lovers, yet also towards even the strangers and enemies in life. On a personal note, it was on that date that this writer’s mother, Margie Quintana Fernandez, passed away in 2000, viewed by myself as a sign that some aspects of love can continue even through eternity.
The 40-day season of Lent will now begin. Since Ash Wednesday falls on the day of the heart, those in the world who will observe the Lenten season this year may be from the outset especially fortified for and disposed toward that spiritual pilgrimage that culminates in the Holy Week of the Passion, Jesus’ death on the cross, and the resurrection of the one who is believed to be the Christ, the Most High.
Many humble and open-hearted people will be making the spiritual journey through Lent. It is an arduous path through the pitfalls, the real and symbolic minefields, the war-filled skies and the vicious agendas of the leaders of nations.
They believe that the Lenten pilgrimage this year will yet make a positive difference as part of a thousands-year-old spiritual odyssey through the interminable heartless wastelands that certain others have made of our world.
Here in el nórte, Lent has traditionally meant dedicating special time and effort for reflection, prayer, prescribed fasting, penance and reconciliation. It is also a time for extraordinary acts of charity and alms-giving and for spiritual and corporal acts of mercy toward others, including strangers and even enemies.
In el nórte, Lenten liturgies are unique and meaningful, drawing from our ancient heritages and cultural and historic roots as well as incorporating indigenous Native American spirituality and natural, supernatural and seasonal elements.
Now in Lent 2018, the world at large is yet beset with tribulation, with outrageous and gratuitous violence between people and nations. It seems that another conflict is always on the horizon.
The cynical killing and sacrifice of thousands and millions of people, especially the most innocent and powerless, seems to be unending. Yet, even in the midst of this horrific conflict, which by now has assumed the most “sophisticated,” technological weaponry and malefic arts that seemingly can move at the speed of light, the timeless heart of humankind can triumph.
Lent 2018 can be the time for the greatest lovers in the world to overcome the blandishments and bloody illusions of the world, to transcend the chilling pettiness that has possessed humankind and to inflame all hearts with life and love.
It can be the time to behold again the vision of the greatest Valentine, the Sacred Heart of the Most High, that gives warmth, peace, and charitable order to the world.
Then something mysterious that has always existed in creation can again be revealed as the living fire in which the darker things are burned away, and all of humankind can sense and hear again that greatest of phrases: “I love you.”