Wednesday, February 22

reflections on Ash Wednesday service

Today is Ash Wednesday and there was much that was wonderful about the service this evening.  Beyond all of that, there was a matter which I found striking and moving which (I believe) nobody else saw.

You see, I sang in our choir this evening, so while everyone else is facing the altar, our little group is pointed in the generally opposite direction, which gave me an opportunity to watch this vignette unfold.

The back of the sanctuary is glass, so that those in the narthex area can sit (with crying infants, for instance) and observe/listen without disturbing others. During the distribution of the ashes, a woman comes into the narthex and tentatively goes towards the sanctuary doors, which are closed.  She stops and stands there, obviously unsure if she should continue.

After a moment, one of our priests (who was coordinating the service but not the celebrant) sees the woman.  She goes to the door and opens it, welcomes her inside, briefly explains what is going on and offers her a seat.  All of this is happening in the very back of the sanctuary, where nobody else would normally see.  That simple act, a person (a priest, even) would welcome an outsider during a special mass, speaks more about the practice of religion than classes and books.  This all gets highlighted by the gospel reading.

"Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them;" (Mt. 6:1)

Regarding Lent in general, I have a suggestion for those of you who are used to 'giving up' something for Lent.  Instead of meat or coffee or whatever, how about something truly difficult and rewarding.  Try giving up divisiveness, preconceptions of others or judgment.

"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."(Hos. 6:8)

Thanks Dad. 

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