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March 6th, 2019

Homily preached at Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria, VA on Ash Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2019.
Ash Wednesday (RCL): Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 103:8-14; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.
I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
        Not too long after we married, my wife Chrissie and I were in The Eternal City.  She was returning to her favorite city in the whole world and there on business while I was there to experience Rome for the very first time.
       One of the sites I had to visit, based on Chrissie’s description, was the Capuchin Crypt.  It is a small space of tiny chapels located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini.  The six chapels contain the skeletal remains of almost 3,700 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars buried by their order.  There are separate chapels arranged with skulls, pelvic bones, and leg and thigh bones all over the floors, walls, and ceilings, and there is one chapel with three skeletons dressed in monks’ habits.  The Catholic order insists that this display is not meant to be macabre, but rather that is serves as a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality.  With the three skeletal monks, there is a sign which says, "What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be..."
      This day, Ash Wednesday, invites us into the season of Lent with a solemn call to fasting and repentance as we begin our journey to the baptismal waters of Easter.  As we hear in today’s lessons, now is the appropriate time to return to the Lord.  During Lent, the people of God reflect on the meaning of their baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.  And the sign of ashes vividly signifies to us our human mortality and frailty.   Read more...Collapse )