I grew up Catholic and am now a practicing Episcopalian. Lent has always been a really huge deal in my Spiritual life. It's a time to reflect, repent, and take up your cross. I love the personal gains I make each year during those 40 days. Lent to me is kinda like the spiritual New Year's resolution. But my favorite day of Lent is Ash Wednesday! And if you're even remotely familiar with the Holy Day, you'll understand my reason why. Sadly, it's not even a holy reason at all.
Like I said, I grew up Catholic. Went to Catholic school for 11 years (I was the heathen in my family who bailed and graduated from one of those other places...you know...public school.) We observed every Holy Day with an intense academic lesson leading up to it and celebrated it with all the pomp and circumstance of a full Mass. That's one thing I love about the Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans, they do it up right!
Any who. I have always favored Ash Wednesday, simply because of the stir that the cross on your forehead causes. It cracks me up every year. Just FYI, in case you don't know, the cross that goes on your forehead is made with the ashes from the burned palm branches of the last Palm Sunday. The ashes symbolize that we came from dust and to dust we shall return. The little piece that they say when they administer the ashes comes from Genesis, I believe.
So this year, I noticed the same giddiness in my boys that I still get on Ash Wednesday...which happens to be a gigantic no-no in the church. You're supposed to be somber and in reflection, but you just can't help noticing what everyone's cross looks like as they parade back to their seats. You ogle at the darkness, thickness, thinness, and the ones that resemble other objects. You wonder if some people will notice the stray ashes that have sprinkled onto their noses. Should you tell them? Is it bad to wipe those off? Do those count the same? Because you're not supposed to wipe off the ones on your forehead.
Then when you get back to your pew, you check out your neighbor's ashes and you may even snicker about the shape or size. It's kind of funny to compare crosses. If you have bangs, you hold them up just so, so your neighbor can give you a nod or thumbs up on the artistry of your very personalized cross. If you've been there, you know this is kinda the unspoken order of things during the service.
Then you go out in public with your cross on your forehead. I love the instant connection you feel when you spot someone else with their ashes. Makes you wanna give 'em a fist bump or a peace out. It always amazes me the looks I get from the poor clueless folks though. And it blows me away the number of people who seriously do not know that the ashes are a religious thing. The looks and questions still make me chuckle after all these years. I have been asked if I knew that there was dirt on my head many times. I have been asked if my pen leaked. And the best so far was the waitress the other night who said..."I've seen a couple of people with that today. Is that for medical purposes?" I said, "Yes! It's the ashes from the medicinal marijuana I smoked earlier. It makes it last longer." No. I didn't really say that, but I really wanted to.
Last week, when I got back to the pew, Sam said mom, yours looks like a person. I giggled. Then he and Fulton asked me what theirs looked like. I told them sorry guys, nothing exciting, just dusty crosses. Fulton asked if he could go to the bathroom to check his out. I can remember wanting to do the same, but my answer was No! you can wait. Same conversations we have every year. It's hilarious the anticipation that builds when you have to wait to check out your cross!
When I left church, I headed to my ukulele class at my friend's art studio, and the girls in there all got it. No crazy stares or questions. But! They did exactly what I was talking about ^^^ up there. They were sizing up my cross compared to the others they had seen that day. We all laughed about the awkwardness of it and shared our funny cross stories. At one point someone said Wow! That's a big one. It kinda looks like an animal, but I don't know what. They said dog, horse, etc..
And then, lo and behold! We figured it out...