In the non-denominational setting we have chosen for our family's church experience, seasons such as Lent and Advent are not observed. I always miss the calendar days; the variations in the liturgy. I observe Lent with my kids (in a very informal manner) as well as Advent (also informal), but this year I wanted something more. This year I took them to Ash Wednesday service at Gen's little church. It is the first time I've done this with them. I don't think it's essential to their Christian walk, but I think they will be more rounded out to have these experiences. SO, I planned to go to Ash Wednesday service, and invited them to go along with me. My daughter was eager, but my son had his normal youth group night scheduled and wasn't as excited to miss it in order to appease me. I figured it would just be my daughter and me. When he decided to come along in the last minute, I felt giddy. I hadn't realized how important it was to me. I wouldn't have forced him to go, but I was so very glad to have him along.
We struggled, and made it by the skin of our teeth. Work was more hectic than usual, I left hours later than I'd planned. It poured (unusual phenomenon here). We missed the street. We wandered in the pouring rain, looking for the little church, and finally found it (miraculously, really). We had nearly given up. We were 30 minutes late, which on Ash Wednesday is about the length of the entire service. We were just in time for Communion, the very last part of the service. We could see immediately that everyone had already gotten their ashes. We were the last up, and were clearly awkward at the alter rail, my son whispering instructions to my daughter, "Dip your wafer into the cup -- don't sip out of it! Everyone is drinking out of that cup!" (He is very freaky about germs.) The Rector kindly offered to give us ashes after, whispering an invitation. We waited at the rail, thinking she meant right then, and were kindly ushered back to our seat. My son shook his head in embarrassment, "I TOLD you!" he scolded.
After the final prayer, she invited "anyone who came late" to come up to the alter rail for ashes. It was just us. We went up and received our ashes, "Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return". And it was time to go.
My daughter was smitten with the religious act. "I won't wash my head," she stated. "eew gross" (my son the clean freak). We got in our car and followed Genesis to the freeway (so as not to get lost again). My kids discussed their experience, both agreeing that by a miracle we managed to find the little place.
We eventually talked of what we'd give up for Lent, and somehow we seemed a little more serious than in years gone by. The trailers from "The Passion of the Christ" have caused us to see this season more intensely than others. Whether we see the film or not, it has had an effect on us. As an Episcopal, I observed the traditional Easter Week services. I went to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. My kids (and my husband) have missed out on this, even though their experiences have given them a different depth of knowledge about Christ; A different aspect of who He is. They have a personal relationship with him before they understand the suffering and death that came before resurrection. I met him after I knew. This Ash Wednesday, in a brief little capsule, they saw something of me that they hadn't seen before. A glimpse into my history. I'm not sure why this means so much to me. It was a sacred little moment.
My husband and son plan to go together to see "The Passion of the Christ", by the way. I don't think I can go. (I can't handle the violence -- I don't need to see it to believe it, but do feel I am missing something by not going). You may ask why I'd let my son see this if I can't handle it myself. He is different than I am; stronger in many ways, smarter. I think it won't hurt him to see the stations of the cross in a way he will remember, in a way that won't bore him or let him forget. He will learn something about someone he loves that all the telling couldn't say. I will go with Genesis to the Stations of the Cross (assuming I get there on time) on Good Friday. I'll bring my daughter again (and my son, if he'll go).
I'm glad to remember the holiness of this season. I think Mel Gibson has helped us all to remember. However you choose to observe it, I hope that this Lenten season will bring an incredible measure of blessing to your life. It has mine. ++thank you Lord, for teaching us reverence.++
(Many make mention of this film, but read Roger Ebert's film review. I also loved Birgit and Randall's reviews in the comments section.)