Sunday, April 19, 2009

cleanness of teeth

I'm guessing that somewhere someone is using Amos 4:6a as a life-verse for dentists:
And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities . . .
much like the exegetically suspect line reportedly seen in a Christmas card:
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice . . . and shall make merry, and shall send gifts one to another . . . (Rev 11:10)
But Amos's point is not primarily about oral hygiene. The next line adds:
. . . and want of bread in all your places . . .
suggesting that this cleanness of teeth comes from not eating.

I was reminded of this Hebrew phrase (in the Greek translation it becomes "gnashing of teeth") in the context of fasting for Lent. When you give up meat, flossing loses much of its apparent usefulness. The main purpose, as far as I'm concerned, is to maintain the habit until the fast is over. But actually getting anything stuck in one's teeth becomes a rare occurrence. When you give up all food, as on Holy Friday, even brushing seems reduced to the purpose of covering up (however feebly) the stink of an empty digestive system.

Perhaps now brushing my teeth can become a reminder, however small, of God's blessing--that the food particles I must scrub away every morning and evening are a gift many would feel fortunate to have.

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