This year it was on the day itself that we celebrated Ash Wednesday with Mass in the church. We were invited to receive the blessing, one by one, at the altar. While the priest made a little cross out of ash on the forehead, he reminded us that we all come out of ash and that we will return into ash. With this event the period of Lent has begun. It will last six weeks before we will celebrate Palm Sunday. A week later we will have Easter Sunday. The relationship between ash and Palm Sunday is that the ash (coming from the palm tree) will remind us what happened once at Palm Sunday when the people welcomed Christ in exaltation into Jerusalem while they were swaying with branches of the palm tree. Less than a week later the same people would deny Christ and require and even claim for his death.
As young children we used the expression: Ash is an equivalent of burnt turf. In this context it means: it does not exist anymore, it is done, it has passed or it is not alive anymore or even stronger it does not have any potential anymore. But you can look at it in a different way…
In order to have the fireplace working we make use of coal here on Inis Meáin. Throughout the day I make a fire with coal myself and I love it. It is not only the warmth in itself, which is enjoyable but to go to the shed and shovel bigger and smaller bits of the material into the coal-scuttle I always am thrilled by the intensity of that specific colour of black; perhaps because of the intense quality of black in this material, one is able to be aware of all the colours the pieces of coal consist of… Think of the conception of coal: the growing of plants, bathing in the sun year after year, buried deep in the earth while being pressed together during millenniums into massive substances consisting of various layers of earth. In fact, what we see when we are enjoying our fire of coal, is caught sunlight.
However it is in the process of burning a fire, gradually, step by step, very slowly in time span the produced heat is coming into the heart of the coal where after inversion takes place…the skin falls apart and a metamorphosis is the result. For it is the ash we are looking at now which carries the warmth in which our inner fire is kept. From this quality we generate our enthusiasm (literarily it means: be in God) to stick at our aims in life.
Slán go fóill,
Elisabeth from Inis Meáin.