THE TASTE OF ASHES

At the 1st Synod of Westminster held at Oscott, England in 1852, St. John Henry Newman preached his famous sermon called, The Second Spring. It was delivered during a period of rabid religious persecution and controversy. It was a beautiful appeal for peace and tolerance.

What follows are the sermon’s rhapsodic beginning lines:

We have familiar experience of the order, the constancy, the perpetual renovation of the material world which surounds us. Frail and transitory as is every part of it, restless and migratory as are its elements, never-ceasing as are it changes, still it abides. It is bound together by a law of permanence, it is set up in unity; and, though it is ever dying, it is ever coming to life again….one death is the parent of a thousand lives. Each hour, as it comes, is but a testimony, how fleeting, yet how secure, how certain, is the great whole. It is like an image on the waters, which is ever the same, though the waters ever flow.

So the subject here is obviously of a historical religious nature. But Newman’s words amount to a longing for spring, rebirth, peace and order — and they have an eternal ring and application. In 2022, we are ever so much in need of a Second Spring on every mortal front, from your house to the Ukraine.

It might seem a trite sentiment on the tongue — saying we long for spring. But, then, abiding natural truths when we voice them, or, if you will, taste them, in contrast to their evil opposite (like all spoken supernatural truths AND evils and ALL benevolent realities that struggle to life like spring blossoms despite threatening tangles of malign, poisonous vines) — yes, these, put into words, often DO sound trite. Yes, they do.

But forgive, please, me while I torture another metaphor and say, as this difficult winter in the world draws to a close, that we are longing for that old taste of spring. We fear it may have a stale taste. We like to think it would taste much better if we could only truly bite into it.

In the Ukraine, however, our fear is that it would taste like ashes.

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