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Today, on Valentine’s Day, while the world is bedecked with schmaltzy red and pink hearts, I will stand before kneeling members of my congregation and tell them that they are going to die. This, without a doubt, is among the most punk rock things I have ever done.
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Declaration - Finitude - Mortality - Ash - Wednesday
With its declaration of human finitude and mortality, Ash Wednesday is always counter-cultural, but when it falls on the very day that chalky candy hearts proclaim “Be Mine,” “Wink Wink,” and (my favorite) “U R A 10,” the contrast is particularly stark.
Though I generally never turn down any excuse to eat chocolate, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the way we Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, with its trite mushiness and overcrowded restaurants (not to mention the inevitable pro- and anti-Valentine’s Day hot takes). So there’s a goth little rebel in me that relishes the opportunity to preside over such a radically alternative event. As a priest, I’ll remind my congregation that however much we ignore the human condition, we are, in fact, dust and to dust we shall return (Ecc. 3:20).
Themes - Love - Death - Ash - Valentine
Themes of love and death are entwined chronologically in this “Ash Valentine’s Day,” and they’re deeply connected in the story of Christianity, as well—particularly in the person of Jesus.
The church is not a morbidity-obsessed death cult that wants to extinguish the warm glow of romantic love, but we reject the idea that what really makes a life complete is finding an erotic partner. We also reject the sentimental idea that anyone could really love another without it costing something—and something far more than the “Cost of Loving” index could ever track. The true contrast on display in this year’s “Ash Valentine’s Day” is not the contrast between erotic love and agape love—because...
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