Today, my wonderful friends, is Ash Wednesday. You may be reading this regretting the last eight pancakes yesterday (and after all, twenty is plenty). If you are like me, you will already be building a jolly chunky sense of guilt for not having made clear decisions about the forthcoming observance of Lent.
Well, time to do something about it. Tonight/today sees the Ashing services (for those of us who do things
properly that way), and those slightly amusing moments when we all travel home afterwards with our temporary tattoos of varying sizes. For me, I am a great believer in the ash-cross being nothing less than the burn of a branding iron that we carry upon our heads, not willingly or even gladly, but because we must share in the shadow of Christ's own crucifixion. We will only remember that we have a dark charcoal splodge on our bonces after we return home, wondering why the people we have passed in the street looked at us strangely. Good that they did though. They will have noticed our faith in a world where we often have call to conceal it.
For us in our part of Aylesbury, we will be welcoming our Archdeacon, Karen Gorham, to talk to us on the theme of the anniversary of the King James Bible. She blogs too - and is doing so for Lent. Read her. And so the great observance of Lent commences. For many it will feel like a period of reflective self-chastisement, and for others an opportunity. Lent is perfectly placed in spring that it may be a beautifully hopeful, positive season, not so much the sackcloth-and-ashes-only festival that some would have us adopt. For some it is about giving things up, and that is good. Sacrifice is good. For me, I am one who feels that I should take something new on for the Lenten season, as I will have to make the sacrifice of time elsewhere to make space for it. I am going to read a book [see link below] that an atheist put in my hand (they received it in error in a book delivery - how spooky is that). More reading is a struggle and will demand that I stop for more time in the day. I will also commit to writing two pieces of work that contribute towards my professional development. Laborare est orare, after all. There will be more liturgy of course and the prayerful build up to the Triduum, a matter of some professional pride for us of a catholic disposition. So much to do, such hope for Lent.
So, you may be giving up the booze, or maybe chocolate. You may be working towards the Tear Fund carbon project or putting time aside. You may still have no plans save for a small awareness that Lent looms. Whatever you are doing or not doing, you will have my prayers. Entered in the right frame of mind, Lent really does have the potential to be the most amazing time for Christians. Good-o!