Ash Wednesday 2013

Ash Wednesday, marked for most of us with a smudge of ashes on the forehead (or in the case of nuns, sprinkled atop the veil), is a reminder of our creation ‘from the dust of the earth’, a symbol of the cleansing from sin we hope to undergo. Ash plays so many roles in our lives, both figurative and literal: it nourishes our crops, is a component of some of our soaps and is the stuff our hopes turn to when they are disappointed. Ash Wednesday, however, is more than all these: a day apart, a day of prayer and fasting, a day of returning to the Lord. The ashes we use were burned from last year’s palms. They remind us that the victory is already won, although we have not yet attained its fullness in our lives.

St Benedict in his Rule prescribes that Vigils, the greatest prayer of the Divine Office, should always begin with the same invitatory, Psalm 94, and its urgent, ‘TODAY, if you would hear his voice, harden not your hearts.’ That really is the key to making a good Lent: do not harden your heart, listen out for the voice of the Lord and follow his promptings. It isn’t complicated or difficult, but, like Naaman bathing in the Jordan, its simplicity sometimes affronts our sense of what ought to be. Perhaps we all need to become simpler this Lent. How else shall we turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel?

May your Lent be blessed.

Books of the Bible for Lent
Later today I hope to distribute Lent books to those who asked after I had gone offline last night.


5 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday 2013”

  1. Dear Sister, I look forward with great joy to reading your blog and hope and pray this Lent will be very meaningful for me. I would be very grateful if I too, could be assigned a Lenten book to read. Thank you.

  2. Friends, forgive me. The offer of assigning a book of the bible was made in the Shrove Tuesday blog post, where I asked people to email me. I’ve assigned 97 individually but must now call a halt as Lent has begun, so forgive the impersonality of this reply. Please would you read the following as your Lenten book:

    Frances — Lamentations, and maybe think about how we have repaid God’s inexhaustible love for us;
    Christine — the Letter of St Paul to the Romans, and maybe think about the role of the Holy Spirit in your own life;
    Michael — the Book of Judith, and maybe think about how God uses the most surprising people to achieve his purposes;
    Caroline — I and II Peter, and maybe think about the gift of salvation which has been lavished upon us.

    What I am saying to everyone is this:
    When you take up your Lent book, forget all the biblical commentaries and concordances you may have in your house. They are for other times. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and then begin reading. Don’t aim to read much, but chew over the words until you find a word or a phrase that you can take away with you and make your own. Let that word become your prayer for the day. Let it grow in you until you are ALL Word.

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