Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ash Wednesday

I know, it's been a week since Ash Wednesday, but I'm just now feeling compelled to share my experience.  This was only my second time to go, but I know this is a service I will return to again and again.  In fact, it's practically my favorite day of the year.

I'm not even part of a faith tradition that marks Lent in any way.  We don't use liturgy.  We certainly don't smear ashes on foreheads.  So, to get my Ash Wednesday fix I have to visit some other church.  One author I read (Rachel Held Evans) calls this "cheating on the low church."

Last year what really stood out to me about the service was the phrase "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  It was a hauntingly beautiful reminder of my own mortality and frailty.  This year that was still a touching part, but the highlight of the service was when we read the following from The Book of Common Prayer:

Litany of Penitence
The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling
Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

The Celebrant continues
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

Ash Wednesday     267

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

That list that confesses all sorts of specific sin really landed on my heart and has buried itself there.  When it was read during service, I found myself nodding along, totally acknowledging yes, that's me.  I do that.  I'm guilty here.  And it created in me this perfect mixture of  grief and gladness.  I am truly grieved over my lack of love.  It bothers me so much that my love for others can be so weak, so pitiful. But I am overwhelmingly glad that God's love and grace forgives my shortcomings, and he aggressively seeks to restore all to a fuller measure of Love in Him.

1 comment:

belinda said...

have you ever attended a Yom Kippur service?