Today is Ash Wednesday. I did not grow up with the celebration of Lent and I have come into contact with Ash Wednesday services only in the last few years. So, as I have to lead an Ash Wednesday service tonight I don't have a deeply ingrained understanding of its meaning. I don't have a sense of history in the occasion (as I might have with Christmas or Easter). I don't really have a Biblical understanding of Ash Wednesday - or even of Lent really.
Is that a confession? Part of me resists being drawn back into the rituals of Roman Catholicism. Part of me understands that the return for some of us to the rituals adds a novelty that allows us to see beyond the repetition to the meaning.
So I have been wrestling with the question, "Why are we actually going to church tonight?" and I hope that I will have a good answer for the congregation!
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
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FWIW, you might be interested in this article by a Baptist on Lent (!) that a FB friend pointed out recently.
I would recommend Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent, but some of the liturgical details won't really correspond to western practices. But my blogging friend Joe has a wonderful extract from its introduction on why we need Lent here. If you read nothing else, read that it is Schmemann at his best!
I must confess that I cannot imagine Christian life without Lent. But I suppose that I should also acknowledge that it's only since becoming Orthodox that I've begun to understand what a joyful season it is.
Hi Jenny: strange that you want to call Lent/Ash wednesday a Roman Catholic ritual! It is a Christian ritual - embraced by a range of Chriatin traditions - including the Orthodox church, the Anglicans, and it also lies deep in our Wesleyan roots.
Hi Macrina - thanks for the links (still need to look at them, but I will!) I think I know what you mean by joyful - something to do with true surrender to Christ.
Hi Pete - yes, it probably is strange. But I am happy when I discover new areas of my faith to explore (even if it's nothing knew to others). Following the evolution of Ash Wednesday celebrations might give interesting insight into the church. Our bishop commented that he wondered if we would start seeing Happy Ash Wednesday cards in the shops. It would be an interesting journey.
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