Devoured or Digested: What’s Eating You this Lent?

Ash Wednesday kicks of Lent today. I didn’t grow up with any awareness of Lent, the 40-day season preceding Easter observed by many Way-farers for nearly two millennia. In my ‘low church’ Baptist, Pentecostal, and Presbyterian upbringings, it just wasn’t a thing we did.

But a few years back, I was positively hungry for this season of letting go and preparation. It had been 27 days since my mom died, and even less time since something (improbably enough) equally disruptive occurred, the pair of devastating events shaking me to my core.

I was driving through the densely-foliaged, sloping road to drop something off (I forget what) at 15 Overbrook Place, the community hub shared between Land of the Sky and Circle of Mercy, my faith community. Land of the Sky’s pastor, my friend Sara Wilcox, happened to be on her way back to the building, from one of her legendary runs.

“You want some ashes?” she asked me, mid-run, when I called her about the key code to the building. There had been a drive-by ‘imposition of ashes’ earlier that day, pandemic-style, between our two congregations. I had missed that, but Sara — who knew of the troubles I recently endured — really wanted to smudge me.

And so I waited, lying on the floor of the church library, contemplating the hell of the previous month.

Remember, O Mortal, that thou art dust…

LENT IS A TIME OF ACKNOWLEDGING that we come open-handed to life, preparing ourselves by subtraction to be embraced by the energies of Christ’s resurrection:

In time and eternity, in the ordinary and the numinous, in us and as us, through us and around us.

As I laid on that church library floor, I found strange phrases lighting up my sorrow, and deepening my joy…

“Tempus Edax Rerum,” the t-shirt I wore ‘happened’ to read.

“Time, devourer of all things.”

At first blush, this seems a succinct echo of what is traditionally said as the ashes are imposed by stained hands across the planet:

“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris”

“Remember, human, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

But in the former, from the first-century Latin poet Ovid, I hear unforgiving entropy, sweetened perhaps by the great equalizer of annihilation and little else.

In the latter, a Latin liturgy of somewhat-more recent vintage (echoing ancient Hebrew poetry), I hear an equal affirmation of finitude, but with something added:

A greater sense of being rooted in the earth, being creatures of the soil. I hear cosmic belonging, even within what my friend Michael Dowd calls ‘grace limits.’

All of this points me to a final strange utterance — ‘Trogoautoegocrat.’

It’s a term from the enigmatic Gurdjieff, approximately meaning:

”I eat myself to maintain myself.”

What in the world is this all about? Here we see a cosmic principle suggested: the Law of Reciprocal Feeding.

Whether observed in what we aptly call ‘the food chain‘ in nature or noticed in how a glance from someone we care about can either fill us up or seemingly suck all the oxygen from a room, everything feeds on everything else; everything is food.

Either consciously or unconsciously, mutual nourishment is how the entire Universe, the Great Chain of Being, is maintained — and indeed, how we (individually and collectively) gain energy or lose it.

Jesus speaks, in several contexts, of what it means to participate in this reciprocal feeding:

“The same measure with which you mete to others will be measured back to you…This is my body, given for you; eat this in remembrance of me…Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them.” (Matthew 7:2; Luke 22:19; John 6:56.)

And so in each moment, we are faced with a choice:

‘Tempus edax rerum’ or ‘Memento mori’?

Will we let time devour us, passively, or will we endeavor remember ourselves and the Mystery that entangles us all, with great intentionality?

The choice we make with how we spend each day is between unconsciousness and energetic heart-burn, or remorse of conscience, gratitude, and truly digesting our lives, knowing more of ourselves with more of ourselves.

This past year, I have suffered much.

And I’m increasingly aware of how I’ve brought suffering to others’ doors — always with the ‘best of intentions,’ of course.

Sara arrived to our church building right on time, glowing from her mountain jaunt. I stood before her, masked, as she crossed me, compassion twinkling in her tough, Enneagram-8 eyes.

She alluded to the original Lenten language, with a cosmic, benevolent twist:

“Remember that you are stardust, and to stardust you return.”

In the days that followed, what had I been doing to ‘observe Lent’? Ha!

Lately, I feel like Lent is observing me.

And so as we approach yet another Ash Wednesday, I wish to allow this season its magic: remembering that I’m dust, after all, and celestial, too: feeling my own great return, connected with Christ and cosmos, sweetness and strife, peace and pain.

In echoes of the great second-century Hymn of Jesus:

I would be wounded; and I would wound.

I would be consumed for love; and I would consume.

I would be begotten; and I would beget.

I would eat; and I would be eaten.

Brought low.

Lifted high.

With the help of Divine assistance, I seek to remember. Will you?

Mercy to us all.


Want help in having a meaningful Lent?

Then I highly recommend this affordable (pay-whatever-you-can) course with John Dominic Crossan and Tripp Fuller. Drawing from decades of scholarship and hundreds of vivid original photos from Turkey — taken during his years of co-leading biblical pilgrimages there with his wife Sarah and Marcus and Marianne Borg — Dr. Crossan’s The Historical Jesus: The Evolutionary Challenge of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant is launching soon.

WATCH A SHORT VIDEO to learn all about the class!

This course contains:

5 Video Lectures

Each pre-recorded video lecture will feature Dr. Crossan and powerful visual teaching from his many archeological visits across the Holy Land.
5 Livestream Q&As
Each livestream session will feature a Q&A with Dr. Crossan, Dr. Tripp Fuller, and special guests including Brian Zahnd, Dr. Jennifer Garcia Bashaw, Brian McLaren and Dr. Diana Butler-Bass.
Online Community Group
Everyone will be invited to join the private Facebook group to connect with other participants and access all lectures and live stream replays on the Class Resource Page.
The Lectures Include:
  • Jesus’ Theater: Potential Anti-Semitism on Stage and Screen
  • Jesus’ World: How is Global Peace to be Imagined?
  • Jesus’ Vision: How did Tradition Become Traction in Galilee?
  • Jesus’ Execution: What Happened That Passover in Jerusalem?
  • Jesus’ Vindication: How is that Exaltation to be Imagined?

Class starts soon, but it’s asynchronous: You can participate fully without being present at any specific time. Lectures and livestream replays are available on the Class Resource Page.

Church Groups and Circles of Friends: You are welcome to use this class for your Sunday School class, small group, or bands of buddies. More details available in the FAQs.

How much is this? A course like this is typically offered for $125 or more, but Tripp & Dom invite you to contribute whatever you can to help make this possible for everyone — including free if you’re unable to give. They want to make sure this important material is accessible to absolutely everyone.

If this resonates with you, register at today. And let’s join together to discern our roots, and grow better fruits.


Further Resources for a Fruitful Lent:

O Breath of Our Oneness – a Lenten prayer by my dear friend Alexander John Shaia. Consider renting The Great 100 Days on-demand.

Lent Resources – curated by The Many

City of God: Faith in the Streets – a perennial favorite by Sara Miles.

Spiritual Gifts from the Imaginal Realm – a Lenten eCourse based on Cynthia Bourgeault‘s The Eye of the Heart.

Versions of this reflection was originally published on February 25, 2021 and February 27, 2022.

One Response to Devoured or Digested: What’s Eating You this Lent?

  1. Michael Teston February 26, 2021 at 8:45 am #

    Over the last year and a half a group of us have been meeting on line reflecting and sifting through the Divine Dance. This past week we finished up. I noted about a week ago this very thought you reflected on . . . “Whether observed in what we aptly call ‘the food chain‘ in nature or noticed in how a glance from someone we care about can either fill us up or seemingly suck all the oxygen from a room, everything feeds on everything else; everything is food for everything else. Either consciously or unconsciously, mutual nourishment is how the entire Universe, the Great Chain of Being, is maintained — and indeed, how we (individually and collectively) gain energy or lose it.” Sometimes it’s uncanny how our thoughts (consciousness) intersect is it not? Along with that I am reminded of Jesus’ own words, “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” He, obviously, recognized our deep connection to each other, as we draw energy from those connections, or are suffocated by those same connection gone amuck.


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