Thursday, February 18, 2021

A New Lenten Observance


"Once a year, on a Wednesday, we mix ashes with oil. We light candles and confess to one another and to God that we have sinned, by what we have done and what we have left undone. We tell the truth. Then we smear the ashes on our foreheads and together acknowledge the single reality upon which every catholic and protestant, believer and atheist, scientist and mystic can agree;

"Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return."

It's the only thing we know for sure. We will die.

"Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust."

But a long time ago a promise was made. A prophet named Isaiah said a messenger would come to proclaim good news to the poor and brokenhearted. To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

"Those who once repented in ashes will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the  display of His splendor." - Isaiah 61:3

We could not become like God, so He became like us. God showed us how to heal instead of kill, how to mend instead of destroy, how to love instead of hate, how to live instead of long for more. When we nailed Jesus to a tree, God forgave. And when we buried His Son in the ground, He rose."

- Rachel Held Evans

There were no ashes this year, no traditional sign of the cross on my forehead or hand. These are different times we are living in. Not being Catholic, I don't attend mass and receive the ashes from a priest in a local parish. I am a protestant who happened upon the observance of The Liturgical Year a decade ago now and incorporated it into my own personal faith. And even though I held back some greenery after Christmas specifically for this purpose, there was no easy way to burn it and not be noticed by the apartment management, who frown upon open flames.  I also typically would have observed burying the alleluia, but as I am currently staying with my daughter as I await testing for some minor medical problems, I opted to do something entirely different this year.

Recently the cross necklace that I have worn since my baptism broke without my realizing it and was lost. To say I was heartbroken was an understatement. So for Valentine's day my husband offered to replace it, the only trouble being, they no longer carried the one I originally purchased. So I decided instead to go with just a simple sterling silver cross. Much less ornate that my original one, but something about the simple beauty of it appealed to me. Since I had only had it for a few days, I took it out yesterday during my quiet time of reflection and thought on what it means as a follower of Christ to bear this mark. I've mentioned in several posts recently about the series I am currently listening to each day, Practicing the Way, which as you've heard me say before, has been life changing, so these thought were fresh on my mind. After a time of reflection and prayer I then "buried" the necklace, so to speak, by placing it inside the little box that it originally came in. It's not very pretty and my plan is to cross stitch a small draw-string pouch and place it in that, partly because it's prettier, but also because I don't want to lose it! So while all of this was a break from tradition, in the end it was lovely, just the same. I actually love the idea of not wearing my cross necklace so much that I think I might make it part of my annual observance. 

Lent, much like Advent, is a season of waiting, symbolizing the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert. I myself am in a season of waiting. My test, which was originally scheduled for tomorrow, February 19, has now been rescheduled for March 18 due to an ice storm that hit our area today and will keep us in its grips through mid-day on Friday. I am thankful that they were pro-active, as some of the testing requires being on a liquid diet. It would have been disappointing to have gone to all of that trouble for nothing. Still, I felt prepared and it was a little disappointing, but as with everything in my life, I am trusting in His timing and plan.

And so we wait. We had hoped to be in Texas in March to celebrate my oldest daughter's birthday with her, but to be honest Covid probably would have interrupted those plans anyway, so I'm resting in that. At this point I have no idea when we will be back on the road, but my guess is late spring or early summer, but in all honestly I'm not even thinking much past the given day at this point, because I typically don't wait very well. I'm a Plan B kind of girl, I like knowing what's right around the bend. And on that note, that sounds like a need for some intentional, focused prayer.

Do you observe Lent, and if so, what are some of your traditional observances? Share in the comments!

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