Ring around the rosy, a pocketful of posies, 'ashes, ashes,' we all fall down!
Whether you're young or old, you know this rhyme. Chances are you not only sang it as a child, but you also likely held hands with playmates while moving in a circle before collapsing to the ground. Although this familiar song is likely to conjure up good memories, the history behind the rhyme is chilling. The words refer to the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) - a deadly disease that killed 25 million people in the 14th century. The disease manifests itself in red sores with rings around them. The sores, besides being unsightly, smell awful. It's likely that during the time of the Black Death, posies (flowers) were placed in people's pockets to not ly ward off the disease bu also to mask the horrendous odor of the pus-filled sores. Unfortunately, most of those infected, "fell down."
Maybe this was recited as a distraction from the severity fo the disease's effects. Such is certainly understandable scine the disease did not discriminate. But similarly, aren't we all infected with sin? How do we respond to situations when we fall? Do we try to mask the sin with sweet smelling posies? It seems that this familiar saying from childhood is still too casually and quickly spoken. We too often try to maske the sin with sweet smelling posies. We don't really delve into our sin and confess, nor do we find ourselves accountable for our shortcomings. Sure, we all fall down; but what do we learn frm the fall? Are we too quick to say, "We all fall down," or do we listen to what God may be trying to tell us? Do we overlook our falls and shortcomings in a way that we carry no lessons? Do we too quickly and flippantly wash off the ashen cross on our foreheads? Shouldn't we spend 40 days contemplating, reflecting, confessing, and disciplining instead of jumping right back up to join hands, sing, and dance again?
During this Lenten season and beyond, I pray that each of us will recite less and listen more. I pray that when we fall donw, we think, and pray, and learn, and yes, wipe ourselves off and get back up.