Ash Wednesday

Ash WednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. I attended the noon Ash Wednesday service at Good Shepherd Episcopal today. This was especially important to me this year.

Last year I was in the hospital on Ash Wednesday. In 2019 the day fell a week later than it does this year. I experienced a setback after my February surgery. I went into the clinic on Monday of that week simply to have my staples removed, but the nurse didn’t like what I was telling him about what was going on with me. I ended up spending the day in the urgent care waiting room, having blood work done, then a CT scan, and eventually being transported to Kaiser hospital where I remained until Saturday. Of course it took me a few weeks to recover to the point where I could be out and about, so I missed the better part of Lent last year.

This year I decided to be deliberate in marking the change of season and being aware of the space and time of Lent. I phrase it that way because I am not terribly good at implementing or following a Lenten discipline. Nonetheless I want to be aware of where we are on the liturgical calendar. And who knows, perhaps I can coax myself into some kind of Lenten practice.

Awareness of Lent makes for a more joyful Easter, I do believe.

the oddities of the calendar

Ash WednesdaySometimes the calendar falls in such a way that there are weird correspondences. Sometimes the secular and liturgical calendars intersect in such a way that those correspondences are strange indeed.

This is one of those years. Today is Valentine’s Day. It is also Ashbaseball Wednesday. This year Easter falls on April Fools Day. It is the sort of cosmic goof that Tom Robbins wrote about in Another Roadside Attraction. I never knew that the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter matched the time between Valentine’s Day and April Fool’s Day. There’s got to be some significance there, though I’m not sure what it is.

To add another layer, after reporting to training camp yesterday the Dodgers pitchers and catchers had their first workout today.

I’m not sure what it’s all about, Alfie, but maybe we can figure it out. Or maybe we don’t need to.

not in a Lenten state of mind

Some years I am ready for Lent. Other years I am not. This year I was not.

keep calm and put ashes onI missed the Last Sunday after Epiphany because I was without my hearing aid. I missed Ash Wednesday for the same reason and because Tasha was in serious need for a trip to the groomer and Terry was working.

I was, however, made very much aware of the season on the first Sunday of Lent. We did the Great Litany. Sigh. “From the Great Litany, Good Lord deliver us,” Father Phil in Morgan Hill once said.

We are now deep into Lent, and I’m just not there with it. It’s simply one of those years, I suppose.

Ash Wednesday

Lent already. We’re only a third of the way into February and it is Ash Wednesday. Easter is early this year: 27 March, so Ash Wednesday and Lent are early as well.

I have long thought of Lent as being a long, drawn-out season and Advent being a short, fast season. But I looked at the liturgical calendar a while back and I realized that there is only one more Sunday in Lent than there is in Advent. Sure doesn’t seem that way. I guess it’s the different nature of the two seasons.

So here we are. The journey begins.


singing in Lent

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently wrote about how my spiritual director told me that it was not only fine for me to sing, but it was a good thing for me to sing.

She said that maybe my Lenten practice could be about adding something, singing, rather than taking something away.

I like that.

Lenten reflections, part 2

More reflections on Lent while I staff a booth at a trade show

Today I’d like to quote my own rector, Fr. Phil of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church. He has some very useful thoughts on Lent.

The season of Lent is meant to be a time of readjusting priorities as individuals and as worshiping communities. We may despair about our abilities to initiate changes in our lives but perhaps that despair is driven by our view of life that is dominated by cinematic time lapsing, viz., we want change to be evident within a short time frame. How about adapting a view more like the drop of water that over time erodes hard stone? How about being an incrementalist and do the small mustard seed deeds of faith that add up over time? Lent is no time to initiate quick fixes unless we can really consolidate such fixes as our permanent rule of life. We are locked in by some overwhelming social problems and instead of despairing about things we cannot change we need to tend to what lies at hand in our day to day lives where we should not minimize the importance or the cumulative effect of our acts of repentance.

Lenten reflections, part 1

Thoughts on Lent while I’m doing booth duty in Las Vegas

Ann Fontaine made the following suggestions in her sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. She reflects on what we might fast from and what we might feast on during Lent. I found this quite thought provoking.

Fast from judgment, Feast on compassion
Fast from greed, Feast on sharing
Fast from scarcity, Feast on abundance
Fast from fear, Feast on peace
Fast from lies, Feast on truth
Fast from gossip, Feast on praise
Fast from anxiety, Feast on patience
Fast from evil, Feast on kindness
Fast from apathy, Feast on engagement
Fast from discontent, Feast on gratitude
Fast from noise, Feast on silence
Fast from discouragement, Feast on hope
Fast from hatred, Feast on love
What will be your fast? What will be your feast?

Ash Wednesday

Early in Epiphany I quoted Joan Chittister in The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life. As we shift seasons and move into Lent, I thought another quote was appropriate.

The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the questions of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life.

May you have a deep and meaningful Lent if you observe the season.

the liturgical cycle

Yesterday was Epiphany, and as those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, I am fond of quoting W.H. Auden at this time of year. Not exactly an optimistic perspective, but reflective of how I often perceive reality.

Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.

Auden knew his liturgical calendar. And indeed, Ash Wednesday is early this year: 13 February. Not very far off indeed.

Yet if we can lift ourselves out of that ennui, we can find real meaning and value in the cycle of the liturgical year, even if we struggle at times to live it out to its fullest.

I recently read The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Joan Chittister. She tells us:

Life is not meant to be escaped, we learn, as the liturgical year moves from season to season, from feast to feast. It is meant to be penetrated, to be plumbed to its depths, to be tasted and savored and bring us to realize that the God who created us is with us yet. Life, we come eventually to know, is an exercise in transformation, the mechanics of which take a lifetime of practice, of patience, of slow, slow growth.

Wise counsel as we move through the liturgical seasons.

reflections on Ash Wednesday

I had time for the Ash Wednesday service blocked off on my work calendar so I could get away and participate. Nonetheless, I was considering blowing it off. After all, it’s not the most uplifting service of the year. But Terry had a trade show she needed to be at, so I wouldn’t be able to have lunch with her. Given that, no reason not to go.

Wednesday morning I read the Forward Day-by-Day meditation, which made the point that Ash Wednesday was important. It made me think of my first Last Sunday after Epiphany service at All Saints’, where my first Episcopal rector, Margaret, said exactly that. In fact, she said that if you can’t make it to Ash Wednesday services here, please attend a service where you can. That had an impact on me, and has stuck with me since. I’ve attended Ash Wednesday services most years since then. As I did last Wednesday.

The service was lightly attended. There were probably ten adults and some kids. It was a very plain service, with no music. But I’m glad I was there. Fr. Phil pointed out that the other part of “You are dust and to dust you will return” is “You are spirit, and spirit you will always be.”

It was a good start to my Lenten journey.