03-01-06: ashes to ashes

So, Lent started today.

We all know how I feel about Christianity and all, but I still take comfort in some of the rituals and find meaning and some good personal growth opportunities in them.

Tonight we sang our Ash Wednesday service at the Cathedral, and the service really resonated for me tonight. Not sure why tonight felt different than other years, but I'm not gonna overthink it.

What is identical to the last three years though, is that as soon as I came home from the Ash Wednesday service, I walked into my bathroom and got scared out of my mind because I didn't immediately recognize the huge black thing on my forehead. Every year I think, "Holy crap, was I bludgeoned without me realizing?!"

Anyhoo.... tonight's service and sermon concentrated more on the atonement slant of Ash Wednesday, as opposed to the "you're gonna diiiiiiiiieeeeee and disintegrate!" side of things. I like the idea of atonement. I wanna make good for being an assclown.   Jews have a ten-day period of atonement: days between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. During those ten days, Jews are introspective, reflective and plan on ways to make good for the previous year's wrongdoings. Christian-folk have 40 days to do this work, which is what Lent is all about... making sure you're shiny clean and feelin' good for when the Big Easter Shebang goes down.

Here's an excerpt from the prayers tonight which really hit home (slightly paraphrased):

Most holy and merciful Father: We confess to you and to one another... 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. 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.

We confess to you all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives; our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people; our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves; our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work; our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us.

Accept our repentance for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering and for our indifference to injustice and cruelty; for all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts towards our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt for those who differ from us. Accept our repentance for our waste and pollution of your creation, and for our lack of concern for those who come after us.

Kinda cool.

Tonight's gospel reading also talked about doing good things for the sake of being good, not to show the world what a good person you are. Jews, for example, have a few different levels of charity (tzedakah), one of the most noble being the kind where neither the recipient nor the donor know each other's identity. I like that. Otherwise it's almost selfish, in a way.

Anyway, two years ago for Lent I gave up swearing. Not because I thought it would prove anything, but just to see if I could do it. After about a week (I went bowling that first week) I did fine. :-)   This year, I'm gonna start by giving up going out with the choir on Wednesday nights post-rehearsal and donating the money I would have blown to something/someone that needs it. Not tremendously self-sacrificing, but it's a start.

I'm also gonna get crackin' on that "things I've left undone" bit.

But first, sleep.