We are dirt people {Lent 1}


It's mud season in Virginia.

As I walk Ginger around University Circle today, stepping across puddles of melted snow, the poet Jane Kenyon's words come to mind: "Beside the porch step, the crocus prepares an exultation of purple, but for the moment holds its tongue..."

I resolve (fleetingly) to prepare my flower bed for great things. Back at my laptop, The Smiling Gardener educates me on the virtues of humus: the "super important" dark, rich organic matter that holds nutrients, water and microbes.

Humilis comes from the Latin for "low". "The Lord God formed a human from the humus and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And the human became a living being."

Humus. Human. It's right there in Genesis: you and I, we are dirt people---created by God to receive blooming, bursting, exultant life.


"Humility is a proper evaluation of who we are---and a recognition of the greatness of God in us."

From the distant 17th century, Francis de Sales tells it like it is. But information is not the same thing as transformation.

This Lent, let us take time and prayer to ponder, with humility, our true situation, acknowledge all of the knowing that we do not know, and prepare our earthy selves to welcome the graces of God, growing in us.

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“Lent 2001”

The cosmos dreams in me

while I wait in stillness

ready to lean in a little further

into the heart of the Holy.

I, a little blip of life,

a wisp of unassuming love,

a quickly passing breeze,

come once more into Lent.

No need to sign me

with the black bleeding ash

of palms, fried and baked.

I know my humus place.

This Lent I will sail

on the graced wings of desire,

yearning to go deeper

to the place where

I am one in the One.

{Joyce Rupp}

read all of the poem

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More on humility…

“I encourage you, then, to make experience, not knowledge, your aim. Knowledge often leads to arrogance, but this humble feeling never lies to you.” —Anonymous, Book of Privy Counsel [1]

“I love especially these three little virtues: gentleness in the heart, poverty in the spirit and simplicity in life.” Francis de Sales

in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

From “The Litany” by Dana Gioia

This is the litany to earth and ashes,

To the dust of roads and vacant rooms,

To the fine silt circling in the shaft of sun,

Settling indifferently on books and beds.

This is a prayer to praise what we become:

‘Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return.’

Savor its taste—the bitterness of earth and ashes.