Last night, as we finished serving the people, I looked into the chalice and made a quick decision: contrary to our usual practice, the remaining consecrated wine would be sent to the sacristy to be consumed or reverently disposed of later, instead of being finished straight away and the chalice cleaned at the altar.
I had been fasting, and I had to drive home. I was faced with evidence of abundance in the midst of hunger: too much wine to drink on an empty stomach.
Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality – “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” It is a day of fasting, but the fast, paradoxically, can remind us all day long that we are alive.
If – and the “if” is vital and not to be taken for granted – we are usually well-fe, then the deliberate practice of courting hunger provokes in us an awareness of our bodies as living, desiring, hungry. In the midst of death – ashes and dust – we realize how hungry we are for life.
Then we are offered bread – not just bread, but the bread of life. And we are offered wine – not just wine, but life blood.
In the midst of our fast, we are offered it in abundance.