+:-) How cool is it that there is a ready-made emoticon for Ash Wednesday? (This twenty-first century student appreciates it at least.)
Today begins Lent, the season of preparation for Holy Week and the Easter season. Erskine bonus: being surrounded by Christians means that I don’t often need to explain what Lent is, or why I currently have ashes on my forehead. [Another Erskine bonus: being able to go to church with your professors!] Many students here choose to give something up or make some sort of extra effort for the next 40 days, and I love hearing how creative they are. It is a reminder of something my priest said in Mass this morning: God appreciates our thoughtfulness and our efforts, not perfection. In my personal life, I can say that I seldom think about God from that perspective–I have a guilty conscience and ruminate on the countless ways I mess up and fail. But God is our Father, our friend, our greatest supporter, and the truest and greatest giver of love. As much as He does for us every second, He notices and appreciates gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness!
Though I am choosing to make sacrifices and/or changes in my personal life, I am not sharing the majority of those in the blog. I am, however, undertaking a sort of project on the blog for Lent and I would love for you to follow along and be involved. The series will be loosely based on Love Life Live Lent, and I got the idea from a friend in St Andrews who is doing it this year for the second time.
I have discussed the idea with the communications department here (which supports this blog) and they are graciously providing me with support and guidance. I will post updates daily (or as often as possible) about my projects, discussions, questions, and thoughts. You will also get to read perspectives and thoughts from other members of the Erskine community, which may be a welcome change from my voice. One of my intents of my Life Lent project is to encourage thought and discussion in our community, which includes you! I welcome and ask for feedback, questions, and ideas. I also want to preface by reiterating that I am Catholic, so many posts will likely include things about my personal faith perspective and traditions. There will be many others, though.
This post may seem rather vague, but I want there to be some element of surprise regarding what I choose to do each day. Though I may discuss personal projects I undertake or struggles I have, I have no intention of making this project about me. I hope to focus on community, faith, and perspective. Please comment or contact me with any input, insight, or ideas you may have.
I will close today with a brief explanation of why Catholics (and others) receive ashes on this day each year.
The Christian tradition of the dies cinerum (day of ashes) began in the 800s AD but ashes have been used for repentance and penance for thousands of years in myriad cultures. The ashes we use are the ashes of the palms we burn on Palm Sunday, sprinkled with holy water and blessed by four traditional prayers. In the Old Testament, ashes are an outward sign of repentance (example: Daniel 9:3-6). Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a time of repentance, assessment, and a new beginning. We have all heard something along the lines of, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), or “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Ashes are a sign of physical death; our physical bodies may die, and we intend to die to our worldly desires, but we have the hope and faith of eternal life with God.
“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.”
God bless you and keep you,