This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday for the West and marks the beginning of Great Lent. The ritual harkens back as far as the 9th Century and is popular among both Roman Catholics and increasingly among Protestants.
The Catholic Courier states the spreading of ashes on one’s forehead is a ritualized theme found in the Hebrew Bible, in which sackcloth and ashes often represent “humility and mortality and suffering and penance over sin.”
Great Lent begins next Sunday in the West and the following week in the East. This means fasting: one of our favorite things to talk about (and one of your least favorite things to practice, I bet.). Next week I’ll dedicate a big post next week to fasting and Great Lent. But for this week it is enough to say– now is the time to prepare for the Feast of Feasts. This is a time of purification, of introspection, and a setting aside of the “all Earthly cares,” as we enter a season of great closeness to God, in Christ.
This Wednesday’s PraXis will follow a lovely Αsh Wednesday offering at the sanctuary at Brookside Community Church. The sanctuary will be open between 3:00 pm and 6:30 pm, including several interactive stations that invite participants to center and reflect. Each station will have a tactile focus (such as clay, oil, water, paper) a reading, a reflection, and an action for you to take.
Here is one example:
THE STUMBLING BLOCK
‘If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks!”
Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!
Jesus recognizes that along our journey, we are bound to stumble – living faithfully is hard. However, he also says that there is a difference between stumbling, and causing someone else to stumble. We are meant to help one another on our faith journeys, to be a companion on the road, to encourage and support.
Take a marker and write on the rock – what makes you stumble on your faith journey? What obstacles block your way or make it difficult to follow Jesus?
Pastors Nicolette Siragusa and Betsy Broome will be available to offer ashes to anyone who would like to receive them. We think this is a lovely offering and a perfect way to prepare yourself for the PraXis session that will follow, 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm in the parish hall across in the next room.
As always, our sessions will include some prayers, light yoga-style fitness and centering prayer. We’ll be in the sanctuary shortly before PraXis begins, and we’d love to see you there.
Our current season of PraXis run through July. We have a free session offered each Wednesday.
1st and 3rd Wednesday, 6:30 pm, session, 6:15 pm, orientation
Brookside Community Church, Mendham
8 East Main, St., Mendham, NJ 07926
2nd and 4th Wednesday, 6:30 pm, session, 6:15 pm, orientation
St. Peter’s Episcopal, Parish Hall
70 Maple Ave, Morristown, NJ 07960
[It’s inside the courtyard behind the main church building]