Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. As a young Christians in the Pentecostal tradition I was taught that Ash Wednesday was only for the Roman Catholics. I have come to understand that this isn’t true, and Ash Wednesday has become an annual practice that I quite appreciate. Ideally, I would be able to be a more disciplined person on my own, but since I am not, as with most humans, I am thankful that the Church has established a tradition that guarantees the yearly opportunity to stop for reflection upon my mortality, my priorities, and my need to develop discipline.
I hope you have a blessed Lent season as we move toward Easter Sunday and a worshipful Ash Wednesday service tonight for those who are participating.
If only certain Catholics would follow the Tradition, instead of turning this into a day of protest:
That does seem strange since Ash Wednesday would appear to be a day wherein we try to recognize our own shortcomings rather than protest the shortcomings we perceive in others.
True. But Ash Wednesday also initiates the Christian Lenten call for repentance, and repentance of how we have treated those not like ourselves could just as well stand as a protest against further inequality, no?
This does seem to be tricky. I, for one, find that it has become easy for me to decry the injustices in the world around me to the point that I forget I am a contributor as well. I am reminded of the story where a newspaper asked G.K. Chesterton to comment on what is wrong with the world and he wrote back in response, “Dear Sir, I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton”. Or, in the words of Gandhi (from which the more pithy “Be the change you want to see in the world” was probably derived: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/opinion/falser-words-were-never-spoken.html?_r=0), “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” So, I’d say “yes” the Lenten call for repentance should be one where we repent of not standing for the oppressed and against inequality, but I’d say that it would be beneficial for us to observe a day where “I” am the sinner and where my repentance is truly my repentance. If we can’t repent for our own sins it would seem that repenting for those of the world isn’t something we should try to do either.
I fully agree. Either way, I don’t think Ash Wednesday is the appropriate time for such shenanigans. Ash Wednesday is for remembering our mortality; Lent is most certainly a call for repentance of personal and communal systemic Sin. On the subject of the former (our mortality), I am always reminded of the crypts of the Capuchin monks in Rome. As a memento mori they assembled the bones of long-dead brothers into an artistic display featuring robed skeletons with a plaque that reminds visitors, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you soon will be.”
That is a poignant image. I like that the Church has ushered in a time of repentance with the reminder that we are here temporarily and that we need to remember this. We need to remember where we stand before our Creator.
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