The irony of this quiet day is not lost on me. Today is Ash Wednesday, and also a quiet day here at VTS. Quiet days are my favorite days of the semester. We started the morning with Eucharist and imposition of ashes followed by an opening meditation by the Rev. Martin Smith. His meditation focused on the need to allow ourselves the vulnerability of getting dirty before we are ready to be washed by Christ. He quoted Thomas Merton who said, “We have what we seek. It is there all the time, and if we give it time it will make itself known to us.” Merton is referring to those things we seek in prayer, and Rev. Smith was using this quote to illustrate that our time of intentional prayer and quiet, when we seek to open ourselves to God, is actually us opening ourselves to the mind of Christ which is already in us. (I Corinthians 2:16)
After talking about this he took a comedic turn and talked about the American obsession with hygiene. As a Brit, he said that it was a culture shock to move to this country and be bombarded with advertisements for tooth whitening, deodorizing, anti-bacterial, etc… products at every turn. Our obsession with cleanliness is quite different than a lot of the rest of the world. Through his meditation he encouraged us to embrace our dirtiness today; to realize the grace inherent in our weakness. He said: “We cannot become priests until we know the sacramentality of our shadow.” This resonated deeply with me. He encouraged us to go off and embrace the dirt we had wiped on our foreheads as a symbol of the dirt in ourselves. He told us to go off and become, “dirty angels.”
The irony comes after that point when I returned to my room to engage in what I had already discerned as my practice for this quiet day. It was to start with a nice, hot bath. I returned to my room and thought about it for a short time. Was I disregarding what I had heard this morning? No, I was not… I was internalizing it. I drew the water into the tub and soaked for a bit as I thought about the inability of that water to clean what was really underneath it all. I do some of my best thinking in the tub and so this was, just as I discerned, a perfect start to my quiet day. I remain amused that Rev. Smith’s opening meditation spoke so directly to my private plans for the day.
The rest of my day has been spent simply resting with God. I read some of my book about the Ignatian Examen prayer. (The Examen is the spiritual practice I am adopting for Lent.) I laid on my bed and simply listened for God. I enjoyed lunch, silently, with my peers in the refectory. And I have breathed. Oh sure, I have taken a break here and there, but all in all I felt called to a very intentional day of Sabbath and I am grateful that VTS sees the importance of such a habitual practice in the school calendar.
Our closing meditation begin in a half hour. I intend to go to that meditation and then return to my room for continued Sabbath, meditation, prayer, and maybe some sermon writing -if the Spirit is feeling so inclined. It is days like these that make this finite journey feel infinite. I can here the beeping of construction trucks off in the grove but aside from that my heart and my head are quiet. It is nice to enjoy a day of solitude with God. For me, this is the perfect entry into the wilderness.