In Sickness and Health

I was not ready to begin Lent this year.  I was already thinking, too much mourning.  On top of everything, I got sick for about a month.  I wasn’t able to be a part of Mardi Gras or attend an Ash Wednesday mass.  In fact, I haven’t been able to go to a Lenten mass this year until today.  This is all bumming me out because I am a Lenten person.  My priest says that I can take on the Lenten practice without recieving the ashes or going to Church, but I’m starting to feel that I’m missing out on Lent.  Besides, I’ve been doing a lot of lament.  I know I should have the grace to be close to God through hard times.  I remember other times when the first thing I wanted to do when things got rough was to go to a holy place.  I know that prayer should happen when you’re up and when you’re down — it’s a conversation with God.

Don’t worry, I have been a lot better physically and now the drs and I are working on managing everything.

I can’t help but think about the medieval saints who wished for an illness to get closer to God.  I wish I could say that I’m subsisting on the Eucharist alone.  But it’s more like all the visible outward signs of religion have disappeared, and then it’s just God and me…and we have to figure out what to do.  With this bare physicality of God.  I was expecting to do more ritual mourning this Lent, that’s all.  But since I’m already there, in a state of grief, what do I do with the pieces?

I have a candle on my desk that is a picture of the bloodied Jesus, but he looks like Imam Husayn.  Imam Husayn was killed at Karbala, Iraq along with 72 other family and friends.  There were many survivors, mostly women and children.  It is said that he went to his death by choice, as a sacrifice.  And for people to remember.  And I think about flesh.  There’s always pressure:  Am I remembering enough? Am I doing this right?  Am I talking to God? And I remember what a mentor said when I was younger:  “If you do things truly for you, it’s not a competition.”  I wanted to do more ritualisitic memory of Jesus this Lent, but I think, in my heart, I am remembering Jesus in deep ways.  And Jesus keeps turning into Imam Husayn, which turns into Joan of Arc, which turns into Abbas and Zaynab.  And I think this memory, this mourning turns into blood and bits.  But it also turns into images that show up on this blog quite often.  In 1970, there was a play about Imam Husayn that was written.  And I swear, when I read a part of the closing lines, I saw Jesus, too:

…Remember me as you struggle in order that justice may reign over you, remember me in your struggle . . . . remember me in your tears;  when the meek and lowly are oppressed. ..  Remember me when the singing of nightengales in your lives would be overcome by howls of pain and when the sound of clinking glasses drowns the cries of the weepers . . . Remember me when all these things take place and rise up in the name of life to lift up high the emblem of justice and truth.  Remember my revenge so that you may exact it from tyrants.   . . .But if you hold your peace against deception and accept humilation, then I would be slain anew.  I would be killed every day a thousand times.  I would be killed every time a zealous person is silent . . .. I would be killed whenever people are subjugated and humiliated. . . . then would the wound of the martyr forever curse you because you did not avenge the blood of the martyr.  Avenge the blood of the martyr.

And what I’m learning, experientially, is that memory flows over you.  And even if I’d like it to be part of a ritual, it doesn’t have to be.  You can remember God with the breath in, and Jesus and Imam Husayn on the breath out.  What I’ve learned is that I’m living this memory, even if I haven’t been as much a part of Lent as I would like.  I am a ritual and what I am doing is ritual.  I am remembering.  I am Lent.

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