Tag Archive: Ash Wednesday

The Sacred Smell of Ashes

I’m not a huge fan on scented candles, incense, or Glade plug-ins.

When I occasionally went to the Catholic church with my girlfriend or extended family during high school, I remember the incense filling my nostrils…causing me to sneeze, cough, and choke.  Was this “ritual smell” really necessary? I wondered.   We didn’t do this at our Methodist church.

This past week, however, my sense of smell changed.

On Ash Wednesday, I used a small, metal bowl to prepare the ashes I intended to place upon the foreheads of the congregation.  After the service, I brought the bowl home, and place it on my desk (until I could find another home for it).  With the bowl sitting there, and a few ashes remaining, that’s when my sense of smell changed.

Since Wednesday, the aroma from the ashes has wafted throughout my room. While I’ve been praying, studying, reading for school, preparing a sermon…the smell of burnt ashes has lingered.  And there’s been something special about the loitering smell. There’s something Holy.  Something reminds me of church.  The smell reminds me of Ash Wednesday.  It reminds me of sacred incense that filled the halls of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (on my trip this summer). The aroma raising from the used ashes reminds me of Christ and the cross.  It’s as if I am breathing in the Spirit.  God’s presence seems oh-so-close.

Perhaps there’s always been something sacred and special about holy smells.  Too bad my nostrils are only now aware of the beauty.


Undoubtedly, today  many people are asking the question: What is Lent?  Ash Wednesday?  When large, “secular” news outlets comment on the day/season, people take notice…and ask questions.

Why Lent? Lent is a season of 40 days (not counting Sundays) that starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter).  Lent is a season of preparation that anticipates the celebration of Easter.  Historically, Lent began as a time of fasting and preparation for baptism for early Christian converts (first couple centuries).

Why Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday begins Christians’ Lenten journey to the cross, and then the tomb on Easter morning.  On Ash Wednesday, Christians pause to reflect on two realities: 1) our own mortaliy, and 2) God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.  So, while Ash Wednesday is a time of examining our own sinfulness, we temper our penitence in light of God’s forgiveness.

Why Ashes? Ashes serve as a sign of mortality and repentance.  United Methodists pray this prayer over the ashes:

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth.  Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of out mortality and penitence, so that we may remember that only by your gracious gift are we given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  — Genesis 3:19


* Some thoughts and insights taken from The United Methodist Book of Worship.

Giving up facebook for Lent


Could it be?  Are people really giving up facebook for Lent?

In a recent story in The Wall Street Journal, Stephanie Simon writes about a Dad who wonders if he can last all of Lent without facebook.

For those brave enough/willing/committed to a 40-day fast from facebook, cnet.com offers these wise ways to give up facebook and keep your friends.

1. Set your status: Instead of telling your friend’s what your having for supper, let them know your fasting from facebook.

2. Write down birthdays:  There’s no need to neglect the important reminders facebook provides; simply write them prior to your facebook abstinence.

3. Consider changing your photo: Why show everyone another “kissy face” or “Look! I’m-in-an-important-place” photo.  How about a “Lenten” themed image.  Or, maybe, just the words, “I gave up facebook for Lent.”  Your friends will understand.

4. Delete the facebook link from your bookmark/toolbar: Simply remove the temptation.  We never type a full address in the menubar.  So with facebook off the favorites list, you know you won’t be visiting (typing) the site any time soon.

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