Friday 20th February 2015
In this talk given at St Paul’s Cathedral last night, the Archbishop of Canterbury reflected on what makes a good Lent for individuals, communities and society as a whole.
Some things stick in the memory. In 2004, when I wasworking at Coventry Cathedral, I was in a part of Africa which was in the midst of some very serious fighting. A group of black-clad militias was moving across the area, killing, looting, burning.
With a colleague I drove into the area where the fighting was going on to a small town that was under siege, or had been. On the way there, after a long period in the car on very bad roads, we stopped for a few moment break. There was a series of burnt huts to our right, and I walked a few metres towards them.
Around me rose ash. It was this time of year; in fact it was the Monday before Ash Wednesday. The ash rose in clouds, settling on me, from the burnt houses and, as I walked, I realised the ash from those who had been burned.
That was ash without hope, ash without change, ash rising in clouds to call all who saw it to acknowledge human evil but not to promise anything better.
Every Ash Wednesday when I’m at a service with the ashing, it’s that ash that comes back to my mind, and I see in my mind’s eye again, as I did yesterday, the small pumps in the ground of the people who’d been killed, the marks of blood upon the walls, the destroyed huts.
Ash Wednesday, this time of year, is a moment in which we are called afresh to look at the reality that that village represented – the reality that is the reality of human sinfulness and evil – and to reflect that that lies deeply within ourselves, all of us without exception. Not perhaps to that extent, but in one way or another.
A good Lent takes hold of that and, in an extraordinary way, makes space for the hope of Christ. It makes space for the hope of Christ not only in our own individual lives but also in the life of the household and family, in the life of the Church and of local communities and, I would suggest, in the life of society generally.
Read HERE the entire messsage.