Ash Wednesday, Lent Begins

Lent Begins

Lent begins in a few hours. For a long time, Lent was my least favorite season of the church year. I was haunted by what I perceived to be an emphasis on the cross and death and sadness.

Nowadays, I really dig Lent. I think it's 40 beautiful days of of contemplation, possibility, healing, and intentionality. I truly believe Easter takes on new significance when the pathway of Lent is not bypassed or avoided. That being said, I still haven't decided on a Lenten discipline. How about you?

I love Ash Wednesday. Have you ever attended an Ash Wednesday service? Go for it this year, if possible. Even if you aren't sure what you believe about God or eternity or faith (and who really is anyway?!), go to a service on Wednesday.

I remember the very moment I decided I would love Ash Wednesday instead of hate it. I was in the middle of my internship year, and my supervising pastor and I were putting ashes on people. "You are dust and to dust you shall return" we spoke to each person as we made the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

One of my favorite 2-year-olds in the congregation came up to the railing around the altar to receive the ashes on her perfect little forehead. She was the silliest little lady, and I had grown to love her so, so much over the course of my months in southern Illinois. As she looked up at me with the sweetest smile, in expectation of whatever was about to come next, my eyes filled with tears. How on earth could I say these words about the unavoidable reality of death to my favorite toddler while smearing ashes on her forehead? Somehow, the words did come out, and then I spoke the same words to the person after her, and the person after him, and so the evening went. And then, the ashes were smeared on my forehead, too. In that moment, I felt so connected to God, to creation, to all my human brothers and sisters.

We are all on this crazy journey. There are SUCH terrible chapters. And SUCH beautiful chapters. There is so much we don't understand and will never understand. We will all die someday - a day we can never be sure of. In the meantime, we live this reality called "life" together. And God is here, too.

That is why I love Ash Wednesday.


  1. beautifully said, my beautiful friend.

  2. hey dear it's Cara. we get to talk tomorrow! i can't remember if you like cloud cult or not... their song, "when water comes to life," has such amazing baptism/death/connection imagery. i've been trying to decide if it's best to create an Ash Wednesday service or an All Saints' Day service around that song. it will happen, someday. your thoughts are sought. hooray for phone dates!!!

  3. Emily, for Lent this year I am going to be re-reading Julian of Norwich's "Showings" as a way to meditate and contemplate divinity and humanity.

    I love your reflection on Lent and Ash Wednesday. I agree that the act of marking one with the cross in ash ties us to each other, to the saints in Heaven and to those who have yet to come. It is a wonderful reminder. <3

  4. Emily -

    This year for my lenten discipline I am going to pray a modified version of rosary every day.

  5. This was great, Emily. Ash Wednesday has strangely always been one of my favorite liturgical days, but I never knew why. It's uncomfortable and sad and embarassing (afterwards I always was the first to wipe off the ashes), but being allowed to claim those feelings in church is so SO powerful and necessary. I also remember how powerful it was to administer ashes on internship. Everyone should get that feeling...

    For my lenten discipline, I'm taking the vegan thing to full force. And judging by the struggles this morning, it will be difficult, but it also reminds me of this ashiness because of how connected I feel to the earth through lower foods on the food chain.

    TMI I suppose...

    Thank you! And good luck today!

  6. Hey folks - I really appreciate your comments. Thank you. So interesting to hear about your own Lenten disciplines!

    Sarah - let me know how Julian goes these next 6 weeks!

    Pr. Dan - Did you find it somewhere? Or make it up?

    Rachel - how is vegan life 100% going so far?

    Thank you, Sarah, Dan, and Cara - for reading!