Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Random Thoughts on Ash Wednesday

Photo from 2005, Men of the Vineyard

Mardi Gras/Carnival is gone. And now we repent. Lent has officially begun and we look now towards Easter for 40 days (44 days till Good Friday counting the Sundays, according to Wiki).

When I think of Ash Wednesday, I think of Roman Catholics (RCs). I remember my RC classmates who'd come to school with an ash smudge on their forehead in the shape of a cross. And sometimes they'd joke about what they were "giving up" for Lent, like chocolate, or sex, or whatever. It was always so mystical to me. It wasn't something my baptist-preacher dad ever talked about at home or at church. It was just something the RCs did.

Just like they didn't eat meat on Fridays--only fish (does anyone else remember when that restriction was lifted!!). And they left Jesus on the cross in their crucifixes, while we protestants took pride in saying he wasn't on ours because his resurrection was more important than his death. They worshipped the Virgin Mary and the Saints. And they didn't step foot into protestant churches. That last one was such a biggie for me that I purposely chose an RC girlfriend to be one of my bridesmaids--which she did, saying she really didn't care what her church did about it.

Yesterday I said "there was this thing back in my day about how the baptists/protestants threw the baby out with the bath water in relation to Roman Catholicism." All of this was so foreign to me while growing up. No one really talked about it. It just WAS. Them vs. us. If the RCs did it, we wouldn't. And by throwing out the baby with the bath water, we lost so much of the mystery of our faith. The ritual. The pomp and the circumstance. Maybe they lost something, too. But I'm not sure what?

Anyway, today this protestant has a "virtual" ash smudge in the shape of the cross on her forehead, remembering that there are always times in our lives when repentance and mourning and sorrow and loss prepare us for the day of salvation, of joy, of resurrection and Life.

It's a natural cycle. It's a tear and a smile. It's Winter becoming Spring. Of Good Friday becoming Easter. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust. Then VOILA: LIFE!


  1. YES! There is no duality. Sorrow comes with joy, and it's ALL life.

    I wonder if the mystery of RCs for us is partly why I like The DaVinci Code so much -- the mystery, the hidden meaning and power that we as Baptists didn't believe in. Like, the importance of the Virgin Mary and also the other Mary. Like bread becoming flesh and wine becoming blood . . .

  2. I just like to live each day and appreciate it as is. I still can't believe it's already march! Yeah pay day!

  3. Ruth: I like that! No duality. I can hardly wait for the DaVinci Code movie to come out, can you?!

    ET: That's the secret! One day at a time stands alone. It's all we have.

  4. Being a good ol' Jewish Boy, I remember for years on Ash Wednesday, I'd see the first person with ashes and think, "oh, too bad she bumped her head," then get really confused when I saw the *next* person also with a bruised forehead - usually, by the 3rd person, I'd remember, "oh yeah, Ash Wednesday!"

    Anyway, although it's not for me, I think it's a beautiful tradition.

    Ginnie, your writing is beautiful and very moving!

    best regards,

  5. First I'll answer to your question about eating fish on Friday. That restriction was lifted in the 60's by "Concile Vatican II". My parents never had been very strict about religious practices, but we used to eat cheese macaroni on Friday(my sister's favorite) even after the restriction was lifted. Kind of a family tradition, and nobody ever protested, of course.

    Reading your post I realize how religions, in their stupid idea of fighting with each other, had lost a lot of time and finally a lot of people.

    No Jesus on the crucifixes is a very beautiful symbol, I never thought of it that way. And loving Mary is something nobody could ever take away from me because she's the symbol of motherhood in the Christianity. I just have some problems with the "Immaculée Conception". I know that most of the conception of God and Goddess are always done in strange ways, but what is the problem with the fact that Jesus may had been just made by the simple love of a man and a women? What is wrong with that? Why do religions always have a bad attitude against sexuality? (Isn't that a great return to your post of last sunday?) :O)

  6. I remember that. I was a RC and decided to leave as soon as I could. And I hated that ash on my forehead. It made me itch! :-) Not the reason I left, though, hehe. It's not that I don't believe in a God/Godess/etc., it was the institution thinking I couldn't stand. The "we" and "they" and pointing fingers. UGH!

    I guess it has a lot to do with the contents of your previous posts, which I thought were excellent. Let's just start showing a bit more acceptance and understanding towards individuals.

  7. Steve: It's ALWAYS good to get the other perspective! To listen, to see and to accept what others do/believe. Thanks for your comment!

    Clo: I was in high school when my RC friends had that Friday-meat restriction lifted. Still remember it. You said so many things that are exactly where I am right now. Who cares if Mary WASN'T a virgin? Does that change our faith? I love the DaVinci Code because of the possibility that Jesus really WAS human "enough" to have married and had children. Does it change our faith if he did/didn't? Anyway, religion is full of people not understanding sexuality, so yes, it does go back to that Sunday post :) (You're so good!)

    CS: So glad for your perspective as well :) It all really does come down to listening, trying to understand, accepting, and loving our fellow humans!

  8. I was raised in a strict RC family and I ate fish for many years in my youth. As Clo said, this was lifted during the Vatican Concile. However, I don't remember the ashes on ther forehead. I also remember we couldn't go to non-RC churches or even talk to non-RC people because it was forbidden to lay people. The Church was so afraid we hear another speech than its own. Only priests and missionaries could talk to people of other religions.

  9. Dear Mei! The things we remember and the things we finally had to think for ourselves about! UGH. We've come a long way, haven't we.

  10. We have (as i also developped my own system since that time).

    Other things I remember from my youth: the RC was the only true religion and if you married anyway somebody of another religion, the kid had to be raised as a Catholic. But with Vatican II, it changed and now, freedom of religion and oecuminism became important principles.

  11. All I can remember was that I was really waiting for Fridays. Last day of school (I hated school) and no meat... Just Macaroni and Cheese!!!! (Wich is still my fav...) I've always been a spiritual person... not very religious....

  12. Actually, MP, "spiritual" is what counts. The religious ones are often the maniacs, sad to say!

    I Love macaroni and cheese too :)