Belated Ash Wednesday Ponderings/Confessions

Hey there! I have Episcopal readers, and I have some evangelical readers I think. If you’ve been with me a while, you may be aware that I was raised Roman Catholic. We Catholics “do Lent.” Episcopalians also “do Lent” though not quite to the same legalistic degree as the Lenten observances I was encouraged to as a child. But I wouldn’t abandon a Lenten season, and I see more Protestants are observing Lenten piety than ever.

Just now I made a page with the entire pre-Eucharist Ash Wednesday liturgy, as it occurs in an Episcopal church. You can find it here on my blog (and on the top margin, too!), with links to my original source material there. And I found a phrase of the penitential rite that was fitting for me, and my spiritual pathway of the moment. It is simply this:

…We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

I appreciate the recognition and calling-out to our attention from our prayer book regarding this particular piccadillo as “sin” worthy of confessing, reflecting on, and repenting for. Okay, sure, envy of others is pretty obvious. One of those seven deadly ones, undoubtedly. But what of that first part: anger at our own frustration. How many “good” people work themselves into a lather over not being good enough, or competent enough, or perfect enough to be “worthy” to stand at their mere job or family position, let alone stand before the throne of (our merciful, forgiving, loving) God? (do I detect a little involuntary confessional head-nodding from my side of the computer keyboard???) And so often, these people (“people” equals me, too, of course; my bad!) believe this working of themselves into the lather to be evidence of their goodness and even a sort of repentant, sorrowful piety before an inflexible God. And yet, it’s just another twisted form of pride, isn’t it? Frustration that I am not perfect. <faux gasp!>

I missed Ash Wednesday services this year. I had a rough preceding week that made me part lazy, part exhausted, and part scatterbrained. Friday through Monday had me running from house to grandparents to hospital while my husband recuperated from an unexpected, slightly emergent heart procedure. (it is assumed to be a viral infection with greater than expected inflammation, and fluid accumulation…not likely to be an ongoing problem, but one that will require a few followup appointments with cardiology and hematology. Would welcome your prayers in that regard for a non-remarkable report after those appointments are complete!) Then Tuesday I had one of the worst days at work I’ve had in a long time. The new system contributed to my stress level. Some demanding patients, some legitimately so due to health status and/or disability, some unkindly so with no outwardly apparent explanation (but who knows what really goes on in their inner lives of course. <sigh>), added to my stress level. I was too busy to eat lunch, too busy to drink a sufficient quantity to even desire to use the restroom. Had to tidy up a few unfinished tasks after closing, and was late to a family function as a result. Just really didn’t feel like going to church on my much-needed day off on Wednesday.

Now I regret it though. I miss that “invitation, in the name of the Church, to an observance of a Holy Lent.” It’s just not the same in solitude as it is to be gathered in community as the body of Christ. But my missing it was the prompt for my reading over the liturgy here at home, sort of after the fact. It’s a good one. A rich and useful prayer, that is, this liturgy. No Ash Wednesday is complete without a prayerful meditation over Psalm 51 in my opinion. I recommend it and the rest of the Book of Common Prayer’s Ash Wednesday liturgy for your use or consideration.

But yeah, that whole frustration with self is a biggie for me at many times, and particularly right now with this new computer system at work. Must be patient with self. Must relax. Not easy.

Is there a part of these prayers that particularly speaks to you at your place in the faith journey/struggle as you’re experiencing it right now? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

I enjoy taking some time to wrestle prayerfully/thoughtfully with the spiritual and incarnational realities of our God during the season of Lent. Earthy, fleshy life and ministry with attendant joys and suffering. Spiritual, supernatural results and ripples of that ministry and resurrection life. Hmmm…. Much to pray over and ponder, no?

May you be blessed on your journey, whereever it leads you.


2 Responses to Belated Ash Wednesday Ponderings/Confessions

  1. Jon Egger says:

    It’s all about that awful, heart-wrenching navel gazing we’re supposed to be doing during Lent, Karla.

    The first Ash Wednesday after I was ordained I stood with the priest I was working with and we placed ashes on our congregation. It was deeply touching. I had to work that night..and the following night…and the Friday morning after washing my hands *dozens* of times, the ashes were still in my fingerprint on my thumb.

    There’s a sermon in there somewhere; I never got around to writing it.

    Peace out, girl, and have a penitent Lent!

  2. karla says:

    Jon! Nice to hear from you. Lent…just got back from a get-together with the SD not too long ago, and getting that covered pretty nicely. He gave me a sign language sign that he said translates loosely to “no worries” and reminded me tremendously of the image I get in my mind when I hear Jesus say to his disciples if the people of a house won’t welcome you, brush the dust of their town off of you…or words to that general effect? I also couldn’t help having an aural in my mind’s ear of Timon and Pumbaa belting out (peace-ing out?) “Hakuna Matata” as he described the meaning, and demonstrated the sign. Which is not to say it is a taking lightly of sin; just lightly of self. So, with a simple gesture, done prayerfully, helps work toward peace out and penitence! There’s definitely a real-life, lived out, theological connection in your closing well-wishes. However much meaning you had intended to insert, I received some!!! Thanks for stopping by…I’ll have to catch up with you…my bad. You take care. (KWAK)

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