Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, that 40-day* observance in the Christian church when believers remember Christ’s journey to the cross. For those who may be unfamiliar with this “holy day,” it is believed to date from the eighth century, as evidenced by the discovery of the name “dies cinerum,” or day of ashes, in copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary from that era. The most common activity on this day: church attendance for the purpose of receiving ashes in the shape of a cross on your forehead. Generally, the ashes should remain in place until after sundown.

Why ashes? Penitence. In the words of Aelfric, a tenth-century Anglo-Saxon homilist:
In the books, both in the Old Law and in the New, that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent, that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins… (Aelfric, Lives of Saints, ed. Skeat, I, 262-266)
The application of ashes to the forehead is usually accompanied by one of three instructional phrases:
“Remember...that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”**
“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”
“Repent, and hear the good news.”
Where does the Church acquire these ashes? By burning palm leaves from the previous Palm Sunday (March 1, 2006) and mixing them with olive oil as a fixative. Of course, in this day and age, you can purchase them as well. For more information about that, visit

My Ash Wednesday was quiet and due to a last-minute scheduling conflict I was unable to attend church. For anyone else who missed the corporate worship event of the day, may I suggest this short devotional, taken from the Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church in America, 1958? Note: I updated the “thee,” “thou,” and “-eth” usages in an effort to enhance readability. I also substituted the phrase “Holy Spirit” for the phrase “Holy Ghost.” Have a blessed day.

* Sundays are not included in this calculation.
** from Genesis 3:19.
INTROIT (prayer)
I will cry unto God most High : unto God that performs all things for me. Yea, in the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge : until these calamities be overpast. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me : for my soul trusts in you. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit : as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 51

COLLECT (prayer)
Almighty and everlasting God, who hates nothing that He has made, and does forgive the sins of all those who are peniten t: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Joel 2:12-19

1 John 1:5-9

GRADUAL (response to the Epistle)
Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me : for my soul trusts in you. He shall send from heaven : and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up.

He has not dealt with us after our sins : nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Help us, O God of our salvation; for the glory of your Name.

Matthew 6:16-21


The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you,
And be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
And give you peace. Amen.

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