Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday, 2014

I attended two Ash Wednesday services today.  In the early morning, my family went to St. Paul's, an Anglo-Catholic (that's a real term) church we regularly visit.  My day started out with penitence and sobriety, peace and reflection.  My forehead was marked with the sign of the cross.

Then it got busy.  I yelled at my kids.  I thought unkind thoughts of others.  I was not patient.  I was not kind. I was so busy and rushed.  No time for Jesus.  No time to contemplate the reality of my mortality.  No time for any self-examination or repentance.  I really needed to start the day over, to try once more to get it right.

So I went to the evening service at Church of the Advent, an Anglo-Baptist (that's a made up, but apt, term) church we attend every Sunday evening.  My noisy soul quieted. I prayed the prayers of repentance. I experienced the peace I needed once more.  I slowed down and reminded myself of the mercy of God.  More ashes went on my forehead.

And then I went right home and got busy and rushed and impatient and, oh, so sinful again.  What's the deal?  Why can't I hang on to that peace in my life when I'm not on my knees, actively repenting, humble and sober before God?

Oh.  Well, duh.  Maybe I ought to do more repenting and a little less yelling and rushing, eh?  I needed this lesson today, on the first day of Lent.  To keep up the repenting, continually.  To pursue a repentant, humble spirit.  It's not so easy as running all around town fielding stares at the smudge of dirt on my forehead!  It takes intentionality, it requires community.

Invitation to a Holy Lent
The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.  This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.  It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled through penitence and forgiveness, and restore to the fellowship of the Church.  Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Saviour, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.  I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.