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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lent begins today

Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return...

Toay is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty-day period of Lent which observant Christians mark as a time of spiritual discipline and reflection in preparation for the remembrance of Jesus' passion and death and the celebration of his resurrection on Easter.

Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran (as well as some other) churches mark the beginning of Lent with a service known as the Imposition of Ashes. With prayers and readings to open the season, parishioners then come forward to have a cross marked on their foreheads in ashes to the words, "Remember, dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return."

If you are in a busy urban location, you may see Anglican clergy distributing ashes at street corners, bus stops and train stations, in an effort to bring the season to busy commuters that is dubbed "Ashes to go".

The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are traditionally made by burning leftover palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday. Hardcore clergy use the thumb to impose the ashes, though some are adopting a more dainty makeup brush (mustn't get our fingers dirty, after all).
Rev. Lynn Santulli, pastor of Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, kindly sent along some details on Lenten services at CAC. (Check the websites of other churches for their Lenten offerings.)

During Lent, CAPC will be offering a series of worship experiences that are out of the box, some new twists on ancient themes:

Ash Wednesday - traditional Ash Wednesday service at 7:30 pm. A pilgrim's meal of simple soup/bread will be served from 6-7 pm. In addition, there will be a Lighted Labyrinth which will be open from 5-9 pm in the Assembly Room. The labyrinth is a self guided journey of prayer through a path that is marked by luminaries. Soft music plays in the background as participants spend time in quiet meditation and prayer and make 'stops' along the path to reflect on various Lenten themes.  The Lighted Labyrinth's popularity has grown each year and people have considered it an incredibly moving experience.

Lenten Vespers - each Wednesday during Lent we will have an evening service of light beginning at 7 pm. February 17 will have a young pianist provide improv as we follow the traditional liturgy. On February 24 and March 2 Ernie Scott, the acclaimed pianist, will offer the musical settings for a jazz vespers, and then March 9 and 16 Allen Artz, our resident musician, will offer traditional vespers.

Tim Keyes Consort will be holding a special concert on Sunday, March 6 at 3 pm which provides musical reflections on Lent, Tenebrae.
Pope Francis has brought a breath of fresh air to Roman Catholic faithful, but some in the church have been made uncomfortable by his emphasis on serving the poor, living holy lives and caring for the earth.

How to tell if your parish is in with Francis' vision?

This past December, Pope Francis issued a letter announcing to the church that beginning with Lent 2016, the Maundy Thursday service of footwashing is to be open to women and girls as well as men and boys (see story here).

The service is observed in many churches in commemoration of Jesus washing his disciples feet at the Last Supper, at which time he said, "A new commandment I give you..." Maundy is a corruption of the Latin "mandatum" or commandment.

Maundy Thursday this year falls on March 24. If your parish makes the changes ordered by Francis, you will know which side you are on.

Back in the dark ages when I was a kid, Lent meant "giving up" something you cared about. Chocolates was a favorite sacrifice by my grade school pals.

But times have changed. Someone has suggested that our obsession with texting and other social media make them a prime target for a meaningful discipline for today's Lent. See a story on the idea here.
Give up Facebook for Lent? Now, that would be a sacrifice.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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