Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why I Needed Wine At 7:30 This Morning

For the last few years I have risen early on this day and driven into the heart of the city where All Saint Episcopal is located (near the Fox) for Ash Wednesday.  Today is the beginning of Lent, which, over the last decade, has become one of the most important practices in my own spiritual life.

There are few times of worship in the course of the year that are more powerful to me than the 7:30am Ash Wednesday service with the Eucharist (for which the Episcopalians use real wine!) at All Saints.  They don't do anything out of the ordinary or extremely unique.  They follow the Book of Common Prayer like every other service will this day.  The power is in the tradition of it.  The power is in the collection or readings and prayers, the ritual, the kneeling, the silence, the imposition of ashes on our heads, the bread and wine.

Every year so far the part that most overwhelms me is the reading from Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 and the Litany of Penitence from the BCP (listed below for those interested).

Being welcomed into an intentional season of repentance, confession, return to God, and renewal is a soul feast for me.  My plan on the blog here is to take the various lines from the Litany of Penitence and write a confessional reflection on it.  I hope you will come and join in the conversation of repentance and renewal.

I know that the tradition that is most often participated in with Lent is giving something up for 40 days. I stand behind this practice and plan to do it myself.  However, Lent is intended to be more than denying oneself an indulgence or two.  That is why I am going to take the piece of the Litany and offer reflection so that I can personally be drawn into the fullness of this season.  And, I hope, you will receive that as an invitation to do that same.  If you read the Litany you will see that it covers everything from forgiving others to caring for creation to doing justice for the oppressed to arrogance.

For my own observance of the "fasting" tradition of Lent, I am addressing my own over indulgence with food and drink and my indifference to the plight of the undocumented immigrants in our land.  Yes, these two these will require me to "give up" certain things for the 40 days, but I hope they will also call me to ENTER INTO certain practices that change me and allow me to return more fully to the Lord.

So, here is the Joel 2 passage and the Litany.  If you haven't planned to go to an Ash Wednesday service, many churches have them all throughout the day and evening.  Jump online and try to find one (that is, if you are reading this and it is still Wednesday!).

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near - a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.  Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with morning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.  Let them say, "Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why would it be said among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"

Litany of Penitence from BCP

(italics means the group reads aloud together; the individual lines of confession are what I plan to reflect on here in the coming Lenten season)

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self‑indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
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.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. I came across the Litany of Penitence last year and it immediately became one of my favorite prayers and most meaningful recitations. It will be the major theme in our service tonight. Blessings over the Lenten season.