Good Zeal

Embers, ashes, and Ophir’s gold

Psalm 45 contains a line that reads “a princess arrayed in Ophir’s gold.” The phrase always makes me pause and consider what I am arrayed in. It’s not about clothing as much as it is about attitudes, thoughts, actions… It’s a kind of examination of conscience. What kind of ‘spiritual clothes’ am I wearing?

Yesterday, as we burned last year’s palm branches to make ashes for Ash Wednesday, my clothing took on streaks of ash and became permeated with the pungent scent of burnt palm. I thought about Ophir’s gold. When the stirred embers were finally cool and the ashes sifted, I went upstairs to change clothes.

Tomorrow we will be ‘arrayed’ in these ashes by way of a small cross on our forehead – a reminder of our human frailty and sin, and a sign of our repentance. “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” is the exhortation we will receive as the ashes are given. While the ashes are a stark reminder of sin and repentance, the words of exhortation remind us of our baptismal call to change our ‘spiritual clothes,’ to put on garments befitting children of the King, to wear the “Ophir’s gold” of our life in Christ.

Tomorrow this weblog will be silent as we begin the season of Lent. The day here at the monastery will be quiet and solemn. But that is tomorrow. Today is Mardi Gras. Today we will enjoy camaraderie and King Cake, and we will celebrate like daughters of the King, “arrayed in Ophir’s gold.”

Postscript: I’ve long wondered about “Ophir’s gold” and finally looked it up last night. Gold of Ophir is referenced several times in scripture and apparently was a particularly valued gold. See Job 22:24, Isaiah 13:12. The location of Ophir is not known but possibilities include the southern Arabian coast or eastern Africa.

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