"The men signed with the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark." It has been over twenty years since I first heard those words of G. K. Chesterton while reading an article about Lent. These have become firmly embedded in my heart and rise to my consciousness every Ash Wednesday. As we go forward in church to receive the blessed ashes that mark us as Christ's own, I often wonder if we shouldn't be stepping along in a more lively fashion yes, gaily! rather than shuffling solemnly as though expecting a death sentence. After all, the death sentence has been lifted. Forever! The cross is the tree of victory. Henceforth, ours is the abundant life.
That we do encounter darkness during our sojourn on this earth is indisputable and not to be trivialized. Even with the coming of Jesus, who is forever the Light of the world, darkness remains. There is the darkness of pain, both physical and mental, and the darkness of birth and death. Who of us has not known the darkness of fear, anger, misunderstanding, betrayal, abandonment, or loneliness? Always there is the darkness of sin and evil, which lurk as much within my own heart as in the hearts of others.
Yet, signed with the cross of Christ, we go gaily through all the darknesses enshrouding our hearts. Why? Because the darkness has never been able to put out that Light which is Christ. He, the true Light, continues to shine in the darkness. It was very dark on that hilltop called Calvary two thousand years ago, but even then the Light could not be extinguished. He, the Dayspring from on High, that Morning Star which never sets, "came back from the dead, and shed his ". So we sing in the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night.
Between now and Easter, however, we have many days and nights! to go through. And, for some of us, Lent is not our most favorite liturgical season. I myself don't plug into it easily for many reasons. Advent is my prime time, indeed is the perpetual state of my soul. But Lent has its place, too, and I am humbly grateful for it. We all need this holy season of year to remind us that the cross of Christ is a sacred symbol and a blessed reality to be cherished and revered always. In this sign, let us go gaily through our Lenten time into the shining splendor of Easter.Alice Claire Mansfield © February 1991