Despite my love of new experiences, I really like things that stay the same. Or rather, I like things that repeat and reoccur, either daily or weekly or yearly or whatever. It's nice to experience things in a sustained way, allowing the experience to change and grow over time. I like seasons, how each spring and summer and winter and fall feel fresh and new.
I also like the seasons of the Church, and I have the background for it. Growing up Episcopalian, I watched as our church observed the liturgical calender. Although I didn't understand it all at the time, it made an impression on me. And I've grown to cherish the liturgy and ritual that accompanies the weekly service and the seasons of Advent and Lent, among others.
Communality, however, has not always known what to do with liturgy and ritual and the church calender. It means different things to different people, in both theology and experience. But we have tried, over the years, to live our way into our own liturgies, sometimes gratefully receiving what the Church has ready to offer, sometimes creating our own, brand-new. It's been a good journey.
So I love the fact that we have, for some years now, ushered in the season of Lent with the observance of Ash Wednesday. I started to say "celebration", but somehow that's not what it is. Whereas Advent points us towards the birth of the Christ, Lent points us towards his death. And resurrection, but Lent reminds us that we shouldn't be in a hurry to get there, that we must pass through the shadow of the cross to reach the tomb; there's no shortcut. Both are seasons of preparation and contemplation, but Lent definitely has a more somber tone.
Ash Wednesday provides an appropriate place to begin this journey into darkness. In solemn consideration of our sins, our temptations and shortcomings, we anoint each other with ashes and speak truth to them, "From dust we came, to dust we shall return." It's not the whole truth, but it's a part that needs to be spoken at this particular moment.
One of my favorite parts is seeing Miranda participate. Even as a baby, precious to us in her newness and vulnerability, it's true of her as well. It's good for me, as her mother, to be reminded of her mortality. Although we didn't get a photo this year of her being marked with ashes, here's one from last year with community member and good friend Lisa. Check our Lisa's blog and her husband's for some great Lenten reflections and praxis.)
We also entered into a Lenten fast, which I'll save for another post.