Ash Wednesday

Four readings in the very early morning. One of them is Psalm 51, the Miserere. I carry a few words from it into the quiet:
...For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me...
 ...You desire truth in the inward being,
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.....
 ...O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise...
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We sit in a circle, the four of us, around the cup and the unbroken wafer. We pass ashes one to the other and mark each others' foreheads. Two Anglicans, a Catholic and a Methodist. We have shared so much over the past few months. "Your past is behind you, God's future is before you; walk the road to Jerusalem with Christ."
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It's good to see Neil again. We sit in his reclaimed living room, sparsely but adequately furnished with the things the college has rustled up to tide him over until his own stuff arrives. We discuss real estate and weather and Dunedin and Selwyn. He is wise and real and calm. I am sorry that I will be in Omakau, deconsecrating St Mary's church on the afternoon that the college opens. I'll miss the Haka and the Waiata and all that youthful optimism in favour of presiding over an ending. It seems an oddly appropriate prospect on Ash Wednesday. 
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Elvis Perkins is the son of actor Anthony Perkins who died of Aids related pneumonia in 1992. Elvis Perkins' mother, the actress Barry Berenson, was a passenger on American Airlines flight 11 which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre on September 11 2001. In response to the deaths of his parents Elvis Perkins produced an album called Ash Wednesday, full of highly literate, powerful, lyrical, slightly folksy songs.  My stereo, in one of its characteristic fits of synchronicity chose one of them, While You Were Sleeping, for my journey home.

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