Ash Wednesday Liturgy: Guide to Inhale

I am anxious as soon as I wake up. I will be late to work if I stop to get ashes this morning. I should have planned better but the Mardi Gras celebration the day before went late and dropping off kids to childcare before work leaves little time to get to an Ash Wednesday mass. I can see the bar-b-que pit on the back porch and I am tempted. Surely, I can NOT use ashes from there to mark my forehead. Well, there is only one person who knows if that is sacrilegious or not…I call Mema. My devoutly, Catholic grandmother picks up the phone and chuckles at my question. I love the playfulness she has with Jesus.

“I think Jesus cares about the fact that you want to mark this day with Him. Jesus cares that you recognize His suffering and you want to be with Him in it.”

There is so much truth in her answer that I immediately open the sliding glass door and pull off the grate on the grill. The feel of the ash is distinct, the granules bring me face to face with loss. The granules of ash are the remnants of something now burned up. Tears well up thinking of Christ facing His own journey toward death. I let the tears drip into my ash-filled palm. I smear my grief with the loss and scrape the ash mixture in the sign of the cross on my forehead. I whisper the words.

“I want to know You in Your suffering, my Lord.”

And as soon as the moment became holy, it turned to reality. The 6-minute DIY liturgy was interrupted by time. I packed my kids in the car and began the normal, Wednesday routine. Throughout the day, after forgetting there were ashes on my head, I would rub some accidentally on my fingers, or see my reflection in the rearview mirror and I would smile for a moment recalling the early morning bbq service I had with Jesus.

May we be wild in our desire to connect with our Savior.


Ash Wednesday – The First Day of Lent

Ash Wednesday is the first day marking the journey Christ took towards death. Lent is an invitation for Christians to journey alongside with repentance and mourning for sins. Although it is not directly named in the Bible, there are verses in Daniel that connect fasting to ashes and the act of Lenten practices. Lent is an Old English word meaning lengthen. This lengthening is observed in 40 days which mimics Christ’s withdrawal for 40 days in the desert where He was tempted. For the Christian attempting to replicate this act of sacrifice is normally done through fasting from both foods or festivities. Religious, traditional denominations take Lent more strictly requiring believers to observe the holiday, such as Ramadan or another religious fasting.

As a young Cajun, Catholic little girl from Southern Louisiana, I was very used to not eating meat on Fridays during Lent and replacing our meals with fish or crawfish, which was a favorite of mine. We fished a lot growing up, it was my favorite time for hunting, because we used poles and nets instead of guns. I loved the thrill of catching a fish or bringing up a crawfish net trap full of crawfish. Guns and bullets were somehow put away and repentance was expected. I remember how much I enjoyed the men in my life during Lent, I would fish with my daddy early on Sunday mornings. The conversations I had in fishing boats have always been so much better to me than the cold, silent hours in the duck blinds.

Lent required me to turn toward a sacrifice for reflection, it asked me to wait. In the waiting, I could wonder what it was like for Christ in the desert, in the forty days of preparing. What did He think about when He was hungry? I have not known hunger but in the discipline of fasting, I reflect on those in this world who know hunger and even starvation. Sacrifice leads us to the reflection of penance. Christ wants us to journey with Him so that we might know deeply in our hearts how to live into repentance and sacrifice. For me, being hungry demands me to evaluate how I live in a world where hunger is a reality. And Christ then asks me, are you willing to die for your sin? And I am led to ask myself, am I willing to live a life feeding the poor and hungry? What is Lent unless it moves us to action? What is the point of repenting if we aren’t moved to change, so much so, we go to our death living differently? Christ reflected on His love for God’s people, and He taught His body to long for a redeemed world. Forty days of fasting led Christ to desire redemption for this world so much that He could make it through the crucifixion to get to the resurrection.

What is Lent inviting you into?

What is it in your world that needs your crucifixion to know resurrection?


Ash Wednesday Marking Guide

⟴ Create a room in your home or church that will be available for individuals to stop by during the morning hours (7-9am) and the evening (5-7pm) of Ash Wednesday

⟴ Invite those who attended the Mardi Gras celebration the evening before to join. All are welcome.

⟴ Offer carafes of tea and coffee.

⟴ Create dimly lit areas with 3 stations, each station can include: candles, scraps of paper, writing utensils, cut out prayers, and poems at different stations.

⟴ Stations of Reflection, Repentance, and Resolve
That station of reflection should be observed in silence. It is a table with multiple strips of papers with different reflections of coming into the beginning of Lent and aligning with the preparation of the heart into suffering.
The station of repentance is about reflection that brings us to remorse and writing down what we confess and repent of. These papers are to be carried to the following station of resolve.
The station of resolve is a place to burn the papers we have written our sins on. (The ash from these papers may be cooled, collected, and used for our ashes on our heads. It is time to set our hearts toward Christ and what he is being asked to walk into. We align ourselves with Him and commit to coming alongside His journey to the cross.

⟴ At the door when each individual is leaving, one person is assigned to offer ashes, often it is tradition to burn the dried palm leaves used at the Palm Sunday service. These make for the ashes to put the sign of the cross on each head.

⟴ Recite your own chosen words or something in this vein of thought:

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
Lord, we want to know You in Your suffering,
Prepare our hearts by the confession of (name)’s sins.
As, (name), wants to walk closer with You.