Culture · Faith

Ash Wednesday

I kicked off the month of March today with Ash Wednesday.  For all of you non-religious or non-Christian types out there, Ash Wednesday is recognized in the western church as the beginning of the forty days that precede Easter (the high point of the whole Christian year, no matter what the marketing campaigns may try to convince you about Christmas…) It is traditionally a time of fasting, restraint, as Christians all over the world re-read, tell, and reflect on the story of Calvary.

I am your standard, non-denominational protestant for my druthers, but I have to tell you, my high church friends really know how to do those special, stand-out days in the Christian year.  So when my friend, “Ryan,” a good and practicing Catholic (and my chief “Faith, Religion, and Philosophies on Life” buddy) asked me if I wanted to go with him to Ash Wednesday Mass, I went for it.

There were definitely some funny moments, including but not limited to when we were kneeling during the preparation and blessing of the Eucharist.  (We will ignore the fact that I almost got my shins taken out as I didn’t realize the kneeler was coming down right when it was…) They were singing a song that apparently everyone  knew by heart except for me, so I’m trying to (discretely) thumb through this twenty page bulletin trying to figure out where on earth we are.  We Protestants tend to keep our songs all on screens in the front or out of one hymnal, and our memorized songs are pretty much limited to the Doxology, which is ten measures long–twelve if you count the “Amen.” Bulletins are strictly places to include announcements and the name of the sermon.  Anyway, so here I am, trying to figure out where on earth this dumb song is so I can sing it, but trying to do it discretely, on a kneeler, without giving the person in the pew in front of me paper cuts.  Finally, Ryan can’t take it anymore and he takes  my bulletin, but I feel much better when it takes him a while to find the song, too.  But, fortunately, it is a refrain that we sang a bunch of times, so I still had time to sing it once I got there.

There is nothing quite like being the low church protestant at a Mass.  I’m getting better at it, though.  I have learned, from past experience, that when you say the Lord’s Prayer, you stop in the  middle so the priest can say some things.  (Not that I ever barreled right straight through and was in the middle of the “forever and ever” before I realized I was the only one talking or anything.  Because I totally didn’t…)

But, for all the getting lost and confused, and trying to make sure you’re standing at the right time, I love visiting my Christian brethren and sister-en of other backgrounds.  And as I was sitting in church tonight, I reflected on how amazing it is–all over the world today, people from so many denominations, nations, and backgrounds, all gathered together to recognize the darkness of our world, our need for a Savior, and focusing our attention and spiritual eyes on the road that leads to the cross.  It is a powerful thing to think about.  Even though we are all so different–some stand and some kneel, some shout praises and some are silent in wonder, some sing songs hundreds of years old and others songs with ink that’s barely dry–we all end up in church.  Through all of our uniqueness, our foibles, and our preferences, we are all still bounded together in the One we worship.  That is an awesome thing.  And that makes my bruised shins worth it.


12 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday

  1. I TOTALLY agree. We don’t have kneelers at my church, but I’ve been smacked by one before at a previous church. Ouch! I had a hair appointment after church today and my stylist was very worried about washing off my ashes. I loved that she knew how important they were.

    1. Ha! Tell me about it! I spent it at a rehearsal, though, so that I’d be free tonight–you can’t win them all!

  2. I enjoyed your slice of life today. I’ve also been to a variety of Masses with my dear friend and I joke with her that the Catholics have successfully married religion and aerobic exercise with all their ups and downs and squats and stands. 🙂 Looking forward to your next post.

    1. Hahaha! Aerobic exercise–I like it! My friend, “Ryan” was just complaining about how he feels like he’s out of shape! I’ll have to tell him he should hit Mass more than once a week!

  3. Laughed at the “forever and ever” part since I am a Protestant who always pauses before “transgressions” or “debts” long enough to see which one to use based on the setting:) Just now considering what I can give up for Lent even though I forgot to make that decision yesterday and have already had sweet tea, Coke, and a cookie today. Nevertheless, this high church Protestant from Georgia is indeed bounded together with you as we worship the One True God.

    1. I am a hardcore “transgressor” (even though my church is “debtors”–I like to be difficult…) I actually gave up meat this year for the first time (usually I give up something else)–I know you will make a good choice as we focus our eyes on our Savior! 🙂

  4. Oh, I loved reading this! I enjoyed how you infused the situation with humor but also completely captured the reverence of the experience and the wonder of sharing it with other worshippers across the world. Plus, I could totally relate to the confused fumbling…some things so much the same but then OOPS!

  5. Lifetime Catholic here – 16 years of Catholic education and teaching in a Catholic school. I loved hearing about your experience. It is such a good reminder that we are all more alike than we are different. If only the rest of the world could see that and act accordingly.

  6. I really enjoyed hearing about your experience–as a Catholic with limited experience of other churches on ‘these’ days–it was fun to picture this happening! I always want to help when someone is new to the Mass but always end up making it so awkward. Sounds like your friend is much better at it than me! I especially like this line–‘Through all of our uniqueness, our foibles, and our preferences, we are all still bounded together in the One we worship.’ So true. So so true.

    1. Oh, help the Mass newbies! I think it’s nice, even if it’s awkward, because at least then (as the person who is clueless) you feel like you’re not alone! 🙂

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