May 14, 2018
Every family has its own birthday traditions. In my husband's family, you were allowed to eat sugary cereal and stay in your pajamas and play video games all day. In mine, we picked our favorite meal and cake and helped my mom cook them. Interestingly enough, the Church has her own birthday tradition. In it, her people wear red and eat bread and drink wine and celebrate baptisms. This tradition is called Pentecost, and it is our spiritual birthday.
The story of Pentecost is remarkable. The apostles and Jesus' followers are all gathered together to celebrate the Jewish feast of Shavuot, which celebrates Moses' descent from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. Suddenly, the sound of a strong wind descends from heaven and they are each crowned with tongues of flame. Perhaps, having followed Jesus around and seen his miracles, this did not faze them too much. But then something happened that changed their lives–and ours–forever: they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Before that moment they were individual followers of Jesus, but when the Holy Spirit descended, the Church as we know her was born.
I don't know about you, but I still get excited when my birthday rolls around. I begin anticipating days beforehand, and it saddens me when a close friend or family member forgets it. It stands to reason then that I should get excited when I know Pentecost is coming. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the church body grew from a small group of Israelites to an international force. On this feast day we at Resurrection join in celebration with our fellow body members all over the world and rejoice that God has given us his Spirit and in doing so united us as one Body. Now there's a true cause for celebration.
Remember to wear red or another bright “fire" color like orange or yellow on Pentecost.
January 29, 2018
“[Lent] was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church."-BCP
I don't know about you, but I don't think of myself as a “notorious" sinner. If anything, I pride myself on keeping my sins cloaked in a discreet cloud of humility, penetrable only by those close enough to me that they see through my politeness. Yet every year I look forward to Ash Wednesday, the day that I can literally wear the awareness of my sinfulness on my forehead. I love to go to the earlier service so that I can be reminded all day long of my need to repent, and by the time the dark smudge has worn off of my forehead it is time for the evening service, where I can be reminded all over again.
Ash Wednesday has its roots in the penance of individuals who had committed what the Book of Common Prayer calls “notorious sins." The imposition of ashes can be dated back to the 9th century, but the Order of Penitents, as it was called, dates at least to the 4th. This Order was specifically for individuals who were already baptized but then committed grave enough sins that, when they confessed them to their bishop, they were assigned acts of penance. These included wearing garments that set them apart from other Church members and being sprinkled with ashes when they were admitted into the order. This sign of penance was then adopted for all church members on the day before Lent as a sign that all were sinners and needed to repent before celebrating Christ's return at Easter.
Each year at Resurrection we enter into the great Lenten season with the Ash Wednesday service as a means to remind ourselves that we all belong in the Order of Penitents. But even as the priest is imposing ashes on our foreheads and praying “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return: repent and believe the Gospel," he is making the sign of the cross on our forehead- the same sign that he makes on the forehead of the newly baptized on Easter Sunday as they are declared “marked as Christ's own forever." Penitence is ultimately about being brought back in to communion with Christ and with his Church, and thus even in the midst of the sober reality of our notorious sinfulness we as Christians can look forward with hope to the all embracing joy of Christ's love at Easter.