2017 Ashes

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A thought : “It’s the beginning of Lent. In this part of the world the season does not start with the splash of celebration that marks Carnival in many other parts of the world, and that I  have to guess is due to much of the Protestant, Puritan, Quaker and  Shaker heritage of this region. Here and for me, trading  Mardi Gras beads for Rosary beads is not all that difficult.”

The readings and the messages of the Mass readings of the day are also quite familiar by now. I am familiar with the call for fast, abstinence, prayer and almsgiving. I have read in detail the legalities of the fast, and have read numerous comments Catholics have made regarding their opinions on how to observe that fast and abstinence. I know all too well that todays fasting requirements are far less than was required decades ago, and I get a sense that many wish the dietary requirements would go back to those of the older traditions. Not that the season should be so lenient to become insignificant, but this season must become more that prescribed legalities and rituals. That’s opinion.

“Dear brethren,
let us humbly ask God our Father
that he be pleased to bless with the abundance of his grace
these ashes, which we will put on our heads in penitence.
O God, who are moved by acts of humility
and respond with forgiveness to works of penance,
lend your merciful ear to our prayers
and in your kindness pour out the grace of your + blessing
on your servants who are marked with these ashes,
that, as they follow the Lenten observances,
they may be worthy to come with minds made pure
to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of your Son.
Through Christ our Lord.”

– prayer for the blessing of ashes

With ashes once again sitting on my forehead  I think of what they mean today. How will  I carry that mark through this season? As I carry that mark, I think of a mark in another part of the world. In truth that part of the globe has been on my mind for several years at least. I think of  Christians recently martyred. In fact I think of all those who willingly bear the mark of Christianity throughout the world and how they wear their mark amid often violent persecution. That’s observation.

For me its ashes on my forehead , for others  it’s the  graffiti word Nun scrawled on their homes. The paint marks them as Nazarenes or Christians; to be driven from their homes and slaughtered. I think about the oppression they have endured for many recent years while being marked as Christians. A mark much bigger than a smudge on a forehead. That gives me strength to honor this season with a dignity it demands. It is not a season to be slighted and many die for the opportunity to participate in Lenten observances. Many face persecution and die for their faith. These are people who I should keep in my Lenten prayers, so that their trials and testaments of faith might be my guide. “But this season must become more that prescribed legalities and rituals.”  I shall follow their examples of prayer, and of fasting, and of giving. For them even the smallest act or gesture was given with the greatest of expense, to them each Christian act was truly precious. Each act of worship, or symbol, or ritual, or prayer or fast strengthened their faith, and that is the purpose of Lent. Renewing a faith and commitment to God, even when a heavy price must be paid on earth. “A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. “

In thinking of them , I can ponder their oppression in prayer and I can ponder their oppression in economic terms too. For me my fast is voluntary and temporary, for many it is neither. Oppression and persecution often leads to hunger, while my Lenten journey asks that I give alms many are reduced to begging for them. Refugees, the downtrodden, the abused, the trafficked, the homeless. Lent isn’t only about restoring a relation with the LORD, but also about restoring relations with others. That’s the LORDS command. Loosing selfishness and thinking of others. “A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Pray. 

edited from an older post

 

 

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