Love, Mortality and Lent

On Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday, a reminder that the most important thing we can do while we’re on earth is to love generously, passionately, unselfishly.

Posted in , Feb 13, 2018

Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday

By one of those happy accidents of the calendar, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day are on the same day this year, February 14.

I know what you’re thinking already, “How can I give up chocolate this year if the first day of Lent is Valentine’s Day? What will I do with all those chocolate hearts?” What will I do without those chocolate hearts?

Ash Wednesday is a day when we focus on our mortality. When ashes are marked on your forehead the following words are usually said: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

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How will that feel on Valentine’s Day? And if the usual Lenten fast starts that day, why would I want to take my loved one out to dinner afterward? Maybe the perfect Valentine card this year would show a heart drawn with ashes!

And yet, I think there’s something about love and mortality being celebrated on the same day.

Perhaps when we remember how limited our days are, how precious life is, we’re reminded that the most important thing we can do while we’re on earth is to love generously, passionately, unselfishly, indiscriminately.

I think of Jesus in the wilderness for those 40 days that we honor at Lent, leaving behind friends and family, facing down demons, drawing on heavenly strength. Wasn’t it all preparation for bringing a message of love, one that would culminate in death?

A reminder of death can be a reminder to live life better, with more compassion and greater urgency.

Here’s what I would put into that special Valentine/Ash Wednesday card, a lovely benediction by the 19th-century Swiss poet and philosopher Henri-Frédéric Amiel: 

“Life is short. We don’t have much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk this way with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind.”

Happy Ash Wednesday! Happy Valentine’s Day. Be swift to love and make haste to be kind.

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