Di Cenere: From the Ashes

Bougainvillea strand.

At the retreat that prompted the writing of this short series on discernment, I learned something new. 

Discernment comes from the root di cenere, which, literally translated, means “from the ashes.” 

What does it mean for discernment to come from the ashes? I’ve been thinking on this question since I first learned of the word’s translation.

The retreat instructor said that discernment isn’t meant to point toward the deadness of things, but rather toward where the ashes came from: they came from fire, from energy, from life. 

This has caused me to linger on what remains when a fire finishes. When we sift through the ashes, what remains? What elements proved of stronger mettle than the fire? What emerges when we pick through the ashes the morning after?

Which then turned my thoughts to this passage: 

No one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have — Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials — gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.

— 1 Corinthians 3:11-13

The passage speaks of the end of time, but it also, reflexively, asks us to consider the elements at the core of our lives. 

What is the gold, the silver, the jewels at the heart of your life? What are those things that simply will not burn away? How can your knowledge of those elements guide you in your process of discernment?