Ash Wednesday Meets Valentine’s Day: Lessons from Kabir & Sr. Dot

Today is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day.  An interesting combination.  

Love and loss: Dyptik Company, Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, Palestine. Photo by Ahmad Ohdeh on Unsplash

On the one hand, we are reminded of our mortality; and on the other, we are reminded of our powers of love. 

Kabir, the fifteenth century mystic from India, has written a poem that speaks of love and death, eros and thanatos:

Friend, hope for the guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think… and think… while you are alive.
What you call ‘salvation’ belongs to the time before death.
If you don’t break your ropes while you are alive,
Do you think
ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten—
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next you will have the face
      of satisfied desire.*

“Women Dancing around a Bonfire” by Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDN. Contributed by Matthew Fox.

Sister Dorothy was a person who “jumped into life while she was alive” and “made love with the divine now” by following a path of compassion and justice for the poor.

Didn’t Jesus say: “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance”?

Sister Dot’s brother David wrote me a letter on her Feast Day that I share here.

In December of 2004 I received a phone call from Dot. She said,”Dave, I’m going to receive a Human Rights Award from the National Organization of Brazilian Lawyers, would you come down and receive it with me? I want the family to know what I’m doing down here.” I immediately said yes. I invited Marguerite [his wife] and she said yes.

A close friend of Dorothy Stang talks about her life and legacy following her martyrdom 10 years ago.

We arrived in the middle of December 2004. We stayed with Dot in a Hotel in a rough area of Belem in one room. In the middle of the night, I heard Dot in the bathroom washing her underwear and then hanging it on the bar of the shower room. The next morning Dot got up early went for a swim and then put on the underwear she washed the night before. Dot always lived very simply.  

To be continued.

*Robert Bly, The Kabir Book: Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir: Versions by Robert Bly (Boston: Beacon, 1991).

See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 59, 89, 92, 103-107.

Banner Image: “Heart Cloud.” Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Have you learned to “jump into life while you are alive” and that “salvation belongs to the time before death”?

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

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6 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday Meets Valentine’s Day: Lessons from Kabir & Sr. Dot”

  1. Avatar

    To ‘burn’ for something is to ‘become alive’ to something. What do we have a ‘burning desire and passion’ for? What is it that is totally present and, on our mind, and in our thoughts as soon as we wake up and start our day? What makes us want to get up right away and break out of our sleep? What wakeful experience is more taxing and restful than sleep itself? How do we put ourselves and our presence ‘on the line’ every day? What fans the flames of the fire within us?

    Or is none of the above happening or only sporadically? Do we ‘press the snooze button’ for yet another day, and another day? How long can we survive on ‘snooze? Supposedly endlessly, if we want to. How gratifying is that? Who or what then have we turned our lives over to – indifference and listlessness at best or worse? Do we consciously choose to be among ‘the living dead’ or do we want and need more?

    What if we were to walk a little closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus every day.

    The fiery flame of the Sacred Heart does intend to ‘burn away’ everything we believe we know about God, so that we can ‘experience the Living God’. We all need the Sacred Heart to ‘tear the veil of illusion’ and break apart the weak foundations of our faith.

    We also need to wake up to a diet of ‘bread, water, and fire’ every day, feast upon it, walk and act with passion, and become ‘truly alive in Christ’. – BB

  2. Avatar

    To be honest, I have not yet “jumped into life while I am alive.”
    However, in my very human and humble way, I try to maintain my Faith and keep open/alive my candle/Soul of Divine Nature/LOVE with-in my daily life with others in the Sacredness of the Present Moment. I have been inspired on my ongoing spiritual journey by mystics, saints, prophets, and good people from our universal mystical spiritual traditions, and from spiritual guides/Beings Present from the subtle spiritual realms of our Source~Co-Creator’s Sacred multidimensional-multiverse diverse ONENESS COSMOS… Hopefully, my little human~Divine candle/Eternal Soul will continue growing/transforming/Becoming Consciously the Divine Flame of DIVINE LOVE~COSMIC CHRIST CONSCIOUSNESS….

  3. Avatar

    In my tradition, salvation means healing, wholeness, and this is for here and for now, not in some afterlife. It does require jumping into life to live totally and authentically, with love for God, neighbor, and self–which involves risk. I wish I had the courage and fullness of life and love that Sister Dorothy manifested.

  4. Avatar
    Martina Nicholson MD

    Dear Fr. Matt,
    I really love the words of St. Teresa of Avila, who said “doing small things with great love is as close to perfection as we can get.” I love the story of Sister Dot washing the underwear in the sink at night, which is the best way to keep traveling light. It is lovely that her brother and sister-in-law could go to be with her for that award. Humility is what we most need, in trying to figure out what the will of God is, in our lives. Every day it is very hard, when we deal with complicated people. Each of us has many given “limits,” and some are imposed by mental illnesses in those around us, and others by the myriad foibles of human nature, in ourselves as well as others. Sister Dot recognized the forces around her in the Amazon, and had the gumption to try to help the humans who were being devastated, and are still being devastated by the powerful land-raptors. She is a wonderful model. It will be wonderful if she is named THE saint for the protection of the Earth and ecological causes. We each do what we can. I hope you got a piece of chocolate, along with the ashes for Ash Wednesday. It seems very realistic and humane that we should celebrate both Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday at the same time. It goes along with Love, love is all there is, and “making love with the Divine, NOW.”

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