Sunday, February 23, 2020

Ash Wednesday: The Art and Craft

Ashes to ashes dust to dust.

The phrase will be used next week, specifically on Wednesday. It's a reminder that human life is fleeting and that our hope is in Jesus Christ. Ashes - traditionally ashes made from the previous year's Palm Sunday palms - will be imposed in the sign of the cross on the forehead of believers as a visible acknowledgment of the reminder and the hope.

But sometimes ash is far from a symbol of faith and hope. During nine hours in May of 1980, an erupting Mount St. Helens covered about 22,000 miles of landscape with approximately 540 million tons of ash. The ash was as deep as 6 inches in some places. That's no small smear on a forehead.
Mt. St. Helens, May 18, 1980.
What do you do with 540 million tons of ash? 

Artists have an answer. It's glass. 

Glass is made from a mixture of sand, ash, and lime. Add in heat...lots of heat...and the mixture melts to create glass. Glassblowers in the Mount St. Helens area used the ash from the volcano to make glass vessels and ornaments.

It's sort of the recipe for Lent. Begin with ashes, add the "heat" of forty days of penitence, and see what sort of transformation happens. Think of the things that are made of glass: drinking glasses, eyeglasses, windows, suncatchers. How can each of these things illuminate the season of Lent? 

Glass can be colored all the way through by adding colorant to the sand mix or stained on the surface by applying a layer of color which is then fused to the glass in a kiln. What is the difference between the two methods if you look with Lenten eyes?
Ashes are imposed with the reminder that we are made from dust and to dust we shall return. Glass artist William Morris created the piece below, "Hunter," in 1988. A glass skeleton, which begins in part with ash, reminds us of the fragility of human life. 
William Morris. Hunter. 1998.
How we observe the days of Lent impacts, at least a little, how we celebrate on Easter. Glass, as a material and a process, may help us develop and experience a deeper Lent. 

No comments:

Post a Comment