Posted by: Mark | February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, a huge day in the Catholic Church for it starts the beginning of Lent. Growing up I was never really a fan of Lent–I always preferred Christmas, and I think that’s a no-brainer. It’s been in my adulthood that I’ve grown to reappreciate, and now quite strongly love, all that Lent has to offer.

Today at our Ash Wednesday service, the priest offered three words for Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Alms-Giving. None can be isolated from the other, but the emphasis of Lent is those three components. None of those is very appealing to children, hence my preference for Christmas. This Lent, I plan on examining them quite thoughtfully.

Prayer. Prayer is huge and important in everyone’s lives. I am very firmly of the school of thought that prayer can come in any shape and form. The other week when I pulled over to snap a picture of a rainbow over Ocean Beach, and then tweeted about it, was in my mind a form of prayer, for I slowed down and appreciated a rare occasion of beauty. However, for Lent I want to connect with an ancient form of prayer called Lectio Divina (I will blog an explanation of this zen-like Christian meditation later). My goal is to engage in Lectio Divina once a week, and since it is by definition done with other people, to try and vary up the people with whom I pray, to really stretch my (and their) comfort zones.

Fasting. Fasting was the part that I most disliked. I remember when I was in high school I steadfastly spread what I was certain was a “fact,” that the reason you weren’t supposed to eat meat during Lent was because hundreds of years ago a Pope decreed that because he owned fisheries and wanted to make money. I don’t know if that’s true but I sure did believe it in the past, and reveals my young, “I’m better than the world” mentality. I have grown to recognize my short-comings and appreciate Lent as an extended period of time to reflect upon my inadequacies and short-comings, and to try and minimize their impact in my life. Symbolically I will give up my favorite food of all: ice cream. On a deeper level, I plan to try and decrease, if not eliminate entirely, my proclivity to talk about people behind their backs.

Alms-giving. We read the Matthew gospel story of the talents today: three servants are given money, two go out and multiply the money while the third sits on it. The two who multiply are rewarded, the third is punished. I completely agree that it is a terrible thing to selfishly hoard one’s talents, it’s better to have no talents than to have them an not share them. I am excited to work hard this month on planning a fundraiser for the Daraja Academy and to use my talents as a movie-maker to tell the stories of the lives of our students in Kenya. I also want to use my enthusiasm at my school campus to encourage students to creatively get involved in alms-giving.

Lent is daunting. 40 days is not infinite, but it is not short either. However, I like how if you are able to do something for 40 days, you are capable of doing it for much longer.

My final thought is on these ashes themselves that are now on my forehead. To paraphrase the priest today, they are a symbol of destruction and annihilation, and yet it is from the ashes of forest fires that majestic trees are born.

I hope you all have a wonderful Lenten season. I will more likely than not provide updates on how things are going in these three categories as the 40 days progress.

(Oh, and thanks to Shawna Atteberry’s blog post this morning, which helped to inspire me to write this.)



  1. […] stop by Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka where Mark shared his Ash Wednesday experience. (And yes, you will find the translation for his blog name if you go and […]

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