A Beautiful Lament

ash wed

There is something enticing, mysterious, grounding about the liturgical procession of an Ash Wednesday service. Albeit, this was my first one that I have ever attended. I appreciated the depth and slow movement of things. Nothing was rushed, everything lingered just a bit longer than I am used to in a service. Words were spoken clearly and slowly…soft music played on an acoustic guitar in the background. Lights were dim. Hymns were sung.

It was beautiful. The enneagram 4 in me wanted to hang onto to the “bright sadness” of lament.

Part of my church upbringing contained some of that similar essence growing up in the Nazarene congregation, we held onto many traditions. The reading aloud as a group from declarations used and passed onwards through the generations. We sang sacred hymns that have been sung by saints long before our time in those pews.

But we didn’t grow up with the practice of Ash Wednesday or Lent. This year, like many other years in the past, I heard friends begin to hum about their lent traditions and how they will be experiencing it. Every year I appreciated their traditions, but never found interest in engaging with it myself, but this year I felt a strong desire to partake in this practice long-held by so many people of The Church.

During the service as we reflected on words and silence and music that captured the concept that we are humbled by the mere idea of our human mortality, yet at the same time we carry hope in our eternal communion with God.  Embracing the wonder that we are made from the dust and transformed into beautiful beings, God is making us ever new.

Ash Wednesday for me represented a silent soaking inward of the miracle of what it is to live in this one wild beautiful life. This temple that we call our body, created and designed from dust and to dust we shall return [Genesis 3:19].

Ash Wednesday was a reminder, a fragrant message, to treasure this magical life that we are gifted with. What an opportunity, a joy, a pleasure.

Ash Wednesday was a day that encouraged me to continue the awakening of self-love and respect of thy temple because the Kings of kings and the Lord of lords made this perfect body. This soul held captive for a time, in the physical form given to my name, may I show this humanity gift of mine thankfulness and love, generosity and care.

Ash Wednesday was a time that gave me a sense of urgency to love others, deeper and closer. As a mother my mind always goes to, “How well am I showing my children love…” and then I trail onto my husband and my family and my neighbors globally and locally… Now is the time to love and I am honored to be a part of the lives that cross my path and to whose path my life crosses through as well. Our relationships with people are sacred spiritual encounters.

Ash Wednesday was felt in my gut, in my heart and in my mind. Deeply. A sacred slow contemplative time of embrace. A beautiful lament for a broken world, redeemed by Christ’s sacrificial love.

I was thankful for the ponder and the thoughtfulness, the meditative wide openness. I needed that. I love loud and wild and expressive church but I also love quiet and paused and reverent church … It is all embodied in enticing forms of the mystical gathering of celebrating The Christ.  I am hungry for it all and I am thankful for this new experience.

– Jenny Rose Foster

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4 thoughts on “A Beautiful Lament

  1. Wonderful post. I was raised Catholic to my teens, and I honestly never appreciated Ash Wednesday. I have friends who are adult now and attend. I will give this thought and prayer and maybe attend. I love what it has brought out in you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, it was a beautiful experience for me. Although I wasn’t raised catholic my childhood church had a much slower pace, liturgical at times. I never quite appreciated it as much when I was being raised in it… As an adult I have mainly attended non-denominational, often charismatic churches. The atmosphere is by far a different experience. Yet, I have found just recently that I really long for some of that grounded tradition that my childhood church held… and I have also found that I have a lot of wonder and curiosity to practice and experience other traditions that come out of other churches within the great umbrella of “we the church” — such as Ash Wednesday. It very well could become a nostalgic and sacred practice for you as an adult upon revisiting your youthful church culture. Much love and thank you for your response!

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  2. I love this description of Ash Wednesday. I actually have a flip experience, I grew up with Ash Wednesday and other Lent traditions but after leaving the Catholic Church and becoming more or less Southern Baptist the church we were in for more than ten years didn’t focus on Lent the way I was used to. A few years back I did start fasting from something during Lent again but hadn’t until this year thought about going to an Ash Wednesday service. I saw someone at Meijer with Ashes on their forehead and realized I missed that tradition. Maybe I’ll make an effort to find a service next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved reading about your experience in a flipped perspective. I have also found a rekindling of some of my childhood upbringing within the church, and of course a new growing curiosity of “new to me” practices within The Church as a body. It may be very special for you to re-visit the Ash Wednesday tradition that you grew up practicing. Thanks much for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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