Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow the season of Lent begins. (Seems like only yesterday that Christmas ended, doesn't it?) This is a simply wonderful chance for us to strip back on our little indulgences and give more and more of ourselves to the Lord. Through renewed prayer, fasting and abstinence we see ever more deeply the truth, beauty and power of Our Lord's love for us in his life, passion, death and resurrection. Tomorrow we receive the sign of the Cross in ash on our foreheads, a powerful sign of repentance and our 'putting-on' of this season, of our taking it seriously, making it personal. By now I'm sure we all know what it is we're going to 'give up' for the next 40 days but there is much more to Lent than simply not eating chocolate or drinking coffee. Yes these things are important but we need to think and pray on why we are doing them, what these outward signs point towards. What we seek over the next few weeks is to deepen our relationship with Christ, to draw nearer and nearer to Him, to have a more intimate communion with Him. One thing that we could all try as we take something out is to bring something else in; going to an extra Mass each week, spending extra time in prayer, giving some time to help friends or family members who need extra love and support as well as a whole host of other things. They help us to live our love of God and our love of neighbour in a new way and move us in ways we don't always expect.

We are very fortunate in Horsham to have no less than three opportunities to go to Mass tomorrow. For all you early birds there is one at 6:30am, the usual weekday service at 10am and last but by no means least 7:30pm and this evening Mass will be followed by an evening of recollection with a talk, adoration, benediction and confessions. We look forward to seeing you and wish you a happy and holy Lenten season!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a great, thoughtful post Katherine that reminds us of "the reason for the season".

    Here's another perspective that I have just come across on "The Daily iPad App" (via "Bump baby Beyond" blogsite as I am not lucky enough to own an iPad!). It focuses on Ash Wednesday and points out that we are reminded of things our modern society shies away from, i.e. sin and death, but in an overwhelmingly positive and hopeful way. Yet another reminder that resurrection in any sense of the word only comes via the Cross.

    Sorry it's a bit long, but I thought it was worth it...

    "These big themes, death and guilt, come together in the imposition of those tell-tale ashes in the form of a cross on our foreheads. It’s one of the more striking and economical rituals that I know. Ashes represent mortality and mourning, the cross represents our need for grace and the humbling of our earthly pride and the forehead is the very throne of our personality, the home of our senses and thoughts. Whichever forgotten medieval monk or bishop introduced this poetic gesture into church worship has my admiration....

    "Not that long ago, contemplating mortality and feeling contrition for grave failings were considered noble pursuits. They were the themes of great literature and popular music alike. In our culture we have come, more often, to view these same experiences as neuroses...

    “ 'In centuries past, people built moral systems' that 'emphasized our sinfulness,' the New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote last year. Today, however, 'we live in a society oriented around our inner wonderfulness.' To say, with the psalmist, 'my sin is ever before me' is to risk being labeled obsessive.

    "The denial of death and guilt has become useful to us, even necessary. Ash Wednesday stands out, then, as a brutally frank reminder of things we have halfway persuaded ourselves aren’t true — that our lives are brief and that we need grace. It’s a reminder people seem to crave. I’ve made empty churches echo with the news that God embraces and forgives, but when the day comes to be marked with the sign of mourning and repentance, the pews are suddenly full. It suggests to me that we haven’t quite succeeded in compartmentalizing all our problems into the box of pathology. We might not believe in guilt, but we sure like to confess things, whether in memoirs or on talk shows. We might want to keep funeral homes zoned out of our neighborhoods, but we revel in the vicarious death offered by 3-D horror films and first-person video games.

    "Perhaps it’s these repressed sentiments that draw people to the solemn rituals of Ash Wednesday. In them we experience a vocabulary for our legitimate fears of mortality and our nagging suspicion that we aren’t quite what we should be. And perhaps more importantly, these experiences are overcome not with acceptance or closure, but with something more dramatically hopeful. 'Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit,' the church sings in that same brutally honest psalm. The point of all those smudged foreheads is not to linger in the shadow of death, but to keep walking through it."


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