A weekly Rector’s Notes article, March 4, 2019
Ash Wednesday has always held a special place in my spiritual life. I have a deeply personal connection to Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday has already occurred on my birthday 3 times in my life (that I remember), and the last time it was on my birthday was also the first time that our oldest daughter attended church (not even two weeks old yet, such is the life of a PK or Priest’s Kid). It has always been a service that I have made special effort to partake in, a date not to be missed.
I connect to this service, this day of remembrance, in particular because it speaks to the depth of our reality in faith in a way that no other day holds. The opening prayer and call to the observance of a holy lent so perfectly encapsulate not only the season we are about to enter into but also the deep reasons for our need to do the following practices, to engage fully in Lent, to practice self-denial, to reflect, to seek repentance for our sins.
The opening call is profound:
Dear People of God: 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 by penitence and forgiveness, and restored 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 Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
The important takeaway in this practice of Lent comes in the last sentence: Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
Ash Wednesday affords us an opportunity to come together as one body, one congregation, and acknowledge that together we all have work to do, continually. It is an opportunity to embrace the reality that we are all broken vessels and yet God still chooses us to grow and sustain the beauty that is life, so it is important that we prepare ourselves for this task, that we reaffirm our commitment to this task even in our broken state. It is an opportunity to experience renewal as we prepare to enter a season that will have us continually seeking that renewal as we build towards Holy Week, as we build towards Christ’s death, as we build towards the glorious resurrection celebrated on Easter Sunday. It is the reality of Ash Wednesday’s invitation into Lent that we begin to see how the way of love unfolds before us, the journey that is a faith that follows Jesus Christ.
I hope that you will join us this Ash Wednesday. I especially hope you will join us if you have never had the opportunity to experience this service. In order to make it as accessible to as many people in our community, we will observe Ash Wednesday at Noon with the imposition of ashes in a short service (roughly 20 minutes) designed for those who are able to break away from work for a lunch time prayer service or who find themselves with availability in the middle of the day but not the evening. At 7pm on Ash Wednesday we will gather for the Ash Wednesday service with the imposition of ashes and the celebration of the Eucharist. I hope that you will be able to join us for one of these services.