The word “February” comes from februum, the Latin term for purification. But before February became the universally adopted name of this month, it was known by others—such as the Anglo-Saxon Solmoneth (mud month). It seems appropriate that February is when we transition (think detoxification) from the feasting of Christmas and Epiphany to the fasting of Lent, which begins this month.
This season of transition is untidy, liturgist Peter Mazar writes: “Days grow longer … the ground thaws, and the next thing we know, everything is filthy. Our windows need washing, our temples need cleansing, the Earth itself needs a good bath.” But even more than this, he notes how fragmented and fragile we are, which is symbolized and ritualized by the imposition of ashes on our foreheads. “Eden gone to ashes, the dustbin emptied of a winter’s worth of soot … the dry Earth thirsty for water to make it clay of new creation,” he writes.
Our tendency in the United States is to bathe ourselves in whitewash as the antidote to the messiness of life. “America” is a far cry from Eden. But like Eden’s disintegration, the lives we celebrate this Black History Month remind us that human identity is like a quilt pieced together from suffering, pain, struggle, hope, and triumph.
Malinda Elizabeth Berry is a dissertation fellow at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.
Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
In this familiar gospel story, Luke tells us about the first disciples’ conversion experience. After pulling in a net full of fish, Simon Peter, James, and John leave everything and follow Jesus, who says that from now on they’ll be fishing for people to join them in proclaiming God’s in-breaking reign (Luke 5:11).