I am still working at that short Lenten meditation for my church newsletter...
Forgetfulness is such a deeply-imbedded part of my nature that I forget others do not suffer the same. Forgetfulness is a good trait in a reader—I can pick up the same novel after just a few years, and I recall characters, but nothing of the plot.
Perhaps it’s my forgetfulness that draws me to stories of time travel and time loops. I love the movies Back to the Future and Groundhog’s Day, and my daughter Madeleine is named for the author of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. In time loops, the protagonist must reach recall a future event, at the very time he is absorbed in the present moment: he lives in two different times. He must remember to change a few small things—and then all of human civilization will be saved, or at least a romance will be saved. But everything will be different.
And perhaps my fear of forgetfulness makes Memento the most crushing movie. The protagonist cannot remember how reality fits together, nor his place in it. He can’t remember who is on his side and what version of the story to trust. It’s both a terrifying story and a terrifying metaphor, to be lost in a story that can’t be deciphered.
The cycle of the liturgical year provides its own time loop—because I grew up in non-liturgical traditions, sometimes the cycle’s turning catches me off-guard. Wasn’t it just Christmas? How can it possibly be time for Holy Week again? I forgot it was coming, and then Lent simply appeared after Ash Wednesday.
Liturgy is a string tied around a finger, a reminder to “remember into” that strange future and out of that strange past, remember who we are and where we are in this story. God offers the same grace in each telling of the story: God creates, God redeems the creation because of great love. At least, that’s how the Book reads. In this story, however, it is we who must remember to change one small, important thing: we must be mindful, to listen for what we need to hear this time around. We don’t know how, but the Christian story says we will be joined with God in the end of this long, long season of ashes, where we live absorbed in the present. We don’t really forget that Jesus did the work for us—but on the other hand, don’t we all forget? We forget every day. We get absorbed.
Ash Wednesday and Lent and Holy Week are our opportunity to remember that it is God who made us and not we ourselves. We are dust, to be certain. Some days I feel more dusty than others. And somehow we are also the dear children of God, made to be so by the resurrection of Christ.
Remember who you are, and don’t forget. Listen carefully. Don’t forget.