Benjamin Dueholm ponders Ash Wednesday:
Not that long ago, contemplating mortality and feeling contrition for grave failings were considered noble pursuits. They were the themes of great literature and popular music alike. In our culture we have come, more often, to view these same experiences as neuroses. Grief is edging closer to being defined as a species of depression. Anxiety over the inevitability of death has become something to be resolved through a process ending in “acceptance,” as though being sundered from everyone and everything one loves is the sort of thing one can become good at.
Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned. In the liturgical practice of some churches, the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens (one of the sacred oils used to anoint those about to be baptized), though some churches use ordinary oil. This paste is used by the priest who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross, first upon his own forehead and then on each of those present who kneel before him at the altar rail. As he does so, he recites the words: “Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
So what am I giving up for Lent this year? Well, this period is always important to me, despite my current issues with the Church.
Last year, I focused on renewing my commitment to why I returned to St. Petersburg four years ago. This year, I want to focus on being the best man I can be for my new wife.
Accordingly, I am giving up FourSquare and Twitter…
Just kidding! I discussed giving up some of those things for Lent, but we decided that those activities are, indirectly, part of my job.
Instead, I’ll be giving up table salt, cheese and coffee drinks. That way, several times during the day, when I pass on a frappuccino or a sprinkle of salt or a succulent sirloin, I will be reminded of my faith and the need to be a better man.