A Word from the Bishop-Elect: February 2024

Lent seems early this year and Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day! (Or should I say that Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday?) What a perfect day for this time in the Church. Understanding what I mean may take some mental gymnastics though, so hear me out…

​Our world seems pre-occupied by the “idea” of love that is wrapped up in Valentine’s Day: chocolate, gifts, cards, jewelry. These all offer lovely sentiments, but they are quite temporal. Chocolates are quickly consumed. Gifts and cards can be forgotten or disposed.  Jewelry can tarnish. Of even greater import though is the fleeting nature of some of those “relationships” which begin on Valentine’s Day. Too often we get swept up in the romance of the moment and we look ahead into the future with cherubs and hearts dancing on the periphery, as if we’re wearing silly heart-shaped glasses.

​For many, that consumer “holiday” can be one of loneliness and pain as we look at others preparing for dinner dates and possibilities from a vantage point of singlehood or having lost a loved one ourselves. What is deemed the most romantic day of the year can become the most difficult day of the year for some in our communities. Valentine’s Day may not be all it’s advertised to be.

​This year, however, we have been given an incredible gift of stars aligning to provide us with another, greater opportunity to celebrate love on the 14th of February, as we will gather across our Diocese to share the truest, most intimate, and everlasting love that human beings can share – that of Jesus’ love for us recognized, acknowledged, received, and embraced on Ash Wednesday.

​This holy and gentle day on which we gather in solemnity within community is an opportunity for each of us to kneel at the feet of the One who reaches out His hand to raise us up.  It is that quiet and reverent liturgical day which invites us to come away for a while to pray alone and with others, that we might recognize that we have sinned, but we have not been lost. 

We will gather and listen to those gentle words: “Almighty God, from the dust of the earth you have created us.  May these ashes be for us a sign of our mortality and penitence, and a reminder that only by your gracious gift are we given eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”  (Book of Alternative Services pg. 285)

​The outward and visible sign of the ashes traced on our foreheads is a symbol to all who see us, and to ourselves when we look in the mirror, that the most powerful form of love has been given to us as gift. Our valentine from God is that of the divine love God’s Son has shared, and continues to share with us, every single moment of our lives. The ashes we receive and show the world is the greatest reminder to us that we are loved.  We are loved completely.  We are loved as we are. We are loved eternally. Who could ask for a better Valentine than one which lasts for ever?

​As we prepare to dance to the music that has Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day tunes harmonizing together, may you feel the love of Jesus leading you as you dance in his loving arms.  And always remember that you are loved.  You are simply and wonderfully loved.


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