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Havana: Ash Wednesday sermon concludes Presiding Bishop’s visit


Bob Williams
Cuba’s Bishop Miguel Tamayo places ashes on forehead of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold during Ash Wednesday service March 1 at Havana’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.   (Bob Williams)

Bob Williams
Ash Wednesday service at Havana’s Holy Trinity Cathedral are Cuba’s Bishop Miguel Tamayo (left) and Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.   (Bob Williams)

[Havana, Cuba]  Emphasizing the mission of reconciliation shared by all Christians, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold preached an Ash Wednesday homily at Havana’s Holy Trinity Cathedral this morning, marking the close of his six-day pastoral visit to the Episcopal Church of Cuba.

“[I]t is a special blessing for me to celebrate the beginning of Lent with you,” Griswold said, preaching in Spanish. “I very much believe that our two churches are called by Christ, and by our shared history, to engage in the difficult and costly work of reconciliation.”

(Full text of homily follows below.)

Founded by the US-based Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church of Cuba is now governed by a Metropolitan Council whose members include the Primates of the Church of Canada, the United States, and the West Indies.

Cuba’s bishop, Miguel Tamayo—host of the visit and chief pastor of the island diocese—was celebrant for the liturgy, during which he and Griswold shared the Imposition of Ashes.

“The ashes placed on our foreheads are a sign of our dying to all that is false and sinful,” Griswold said in his homily. “They are also a sign of hope, because in Christ we rise again and again to newness of life.”

Reports of the Presiding Bishop’s meetings with Cuban ecumenical and government leaders—including President Fidel Castro—will follow in subsequent reports from ENS.

Text of the Presiding Bishop’s Ash Wednesday homily at Havana’s Holy Trinity Cathedral

‘We beseech you on behalf of Christ,’ declares St. Paul in our second lesson, ‘be reconciled to God.’

Reconciliation is Christ’s special ministry to and among us. In Baptism we are made one with Christ and share in his continuing work of healing. This is a healing of the divisions that afflict us at the deepest levels of our personalities, and in our relationships with others—both as persons and as nations.

Being reconciled to God in Christ involves a transformation of mind and heart. It means having the consciousness of Christ become our consciousness. This transformation takes place through grace. It is not our work but the work of God in us. God carried out this work through prayer, through the sacraments, through Scripture, and through deeds of compassion and justice.

Lent is a season of transformation. It is a season of turning back to God’s boundless mercy and, in union with Christ, dying to all that hinders God’s grace and work in our lives. At the same time,  Lent turns us in a direction of Christ’s resurrection, and opens the way for God to renew and strengthen us with Christ’s own deathless and life-giving love. In the power of the Resurrection we are given confidence and hope. We are made ministers of reconciliation for the sake of the world God sent his Son to heal and save.

Therefore, it is a special blessing for me to celebrate the beginning of Lent with you. And here, I very much believe that our two churches are called by Christ, and by our shared history, to engage in the difficult and costly work of reconciliation.

The ashes placed on our foreheads are a sign of our dying to all that is false and sinful. They are also a sign of hope, because in Christ we rise again and again to newness of life.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may these days of Lent be a time of blessing and renewal. And may the classical disciplines of Lent—prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, that is, ‘sharing our bread with the hungry’—draw us into ever-deepening companionship with Christ and one another in the service of the Gospel.