I have written before that I only began observing Lent in the past few years once I began attending and becoming interested in the Epsicopal church which observes liturgical practices. When I was growing up, we Baptists were all about the big E – Easter Sunday – and didn’t really observe the 40 days prior (at least not at the churches I attended).
For the past few years (peak pandemic time excepted), I have gone to a service on Ash Wednesday at St. Peter’s of Conway. Ash Wednesday is “the first of the forty days of Lent, named for the custom of placing blessed ashes on the foreheads of worshipers at Ash Wednesday services. The ashes are a sign of penitence and a reminder of mortality, and may be imposed with the sign of the cross.”+ I intended to go to church this year but a crazy storm blew up right as I was about to leave, and I was at my office alone so I thought I would improvise. Was it untraditional? Yes, no doubt. Was it intended to be in any way irreverant or sacreligious? Absolutely not.
I have a couple of different resources I am using as guides through the forty days of Lent this year. One is from the fabulous Kate Bowler (link to website below). She has recently published a book of blessings entitled “The Lives We Actually Have” and has released a free downloadable guide to go along with it to carry through Lent.
The other resource I am using is the Catholic app Hallow – althought I don’t fully accept or adopt all of the beliefs of Catholicism, there is a Lent Challenge that I was interested in following along with. I may or may not have also been influenced by the advertising prowess of Mark Wahlberg.
Back to today….I prepared my own little space at work and – inspired by an idea I found online – wrote out items of penitence on slips of paper which I burned over an old candleholder to make ashes as I listened to music (there’s a playlist for everything on Spotify, even Ash Wednesday). I then imposed the ashes on my forehead (a decided no no for many but the below information reassured me that it was okay++), listened to today’s lesson on Hallow, and just spent a few quiet moments in prayer.
I share all this not to say, hey look at me – in fact, today’s reflection was on humility – but to possibly inspire others to carve out a few moments a day wherever you are in life physically, spiritually, emotionally, or socially, to reflect during this Lenten season. I am fortunate to have a lovely little church community that I can attend whenever I wish, but so many are unable or unwilling for various reasons to attend a formal service. Jesus will meet you where you are.
-Karri Temple Brackett
February 22, 2023
++Yes, you may impose Ashes on yourself. The ashes are not a technical sacrament, they are more sacramentalish, a thing where-in God is present, but not guaranteed as in the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, the essential Christian sacraments, or in the sacramental rites of Confirmation, Marriage, Unction, Reconciliation, and Ordination, the “all may, some should, but none must sacraments. https://stfrancisgreatfalls.org/ash-wednesday-service/