Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Ps. 51.10)
Today is Ash Wednesday and the pull of the Lenten season and the rhythm of the traditions of our faith is very strong on me. I long to be in the midst of a community of faith, to sit in silence, in the presence of other precious souls desiring to purge the inconsequential things, the habits and appetites that initially seem to comfort but hold no real comfort. These things that grip and cling like barnacles, tedious to remove. While unwelcome as they remain, at the hands of gentle love and grace and mercy, the hands borne through, flick off the unsightly mess with ease and tenderness. I know this experience to be true and faithful, but I know it also to be most powerful when in the context of a community.
As my children grow older and become more cognizant and intuit the phenomenon called grace and forgiveness, the easier it is to relish them as my community in deeper ways. So, tonight, we gathered around the table while I read a Lenten meditation. We wrote out (or made a picture) of something we were sorry for or wanted to abstain from to make room for the voice of Jesus or perhaps a commitment to observe fixed prayer. Then, with Christ candle lit, we set them on fire! Once the paper was burnt to ashes and cooled, I mixed in a bit of oil and blessed each of my children and my husband with an Ash Wednesday prayer. Nothing more profound. Nothing more ordained and blessed by the Holy Trinity than a family stepping out of frantic-world-time into the sacred rhythm of Jesus-time. Of course, I think Clark will only remember the fire! But, he will know the effects of the graces that were visited on us tonight. And, so will I.