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Chaplain's Reflections
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Rev. Kristin Sullivan, School Chaplain

What is Ash Wednesday?

Dear St. Mark's Families,

Next week we will celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. 

Lent offers us the opportunity to bring ourselves closer to God and to rededicate ourselves to our faith. During the Ash Wednesday service, everyone is invited to come forward and have a cross of Ashes placed on their heads.  A reminder of our own mortality and our desire to come closer to God. 

Ash Wednesday is a day to remember that in the midst of this life filled place we are all mortal.  Every one of us, every child, every adult, every person that we meet. No one is different than another, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust."  The crosses that we wear on our foreheads are a reminder of our shared humanity and our shared destiny. In this season of lent we are given the chance to wake up, to look anew at the ways that God speaks to us and through us.  To really examine how we live our lives with one another and the ways that we keep ourselves walled off from God. 

But in the midst of our ashes this is also a day of new beginnings. In Greek mythology the Phoenix is said to live for 500 years and then burst into flames upon its death, only to rise again from its own ashes.  Today as we are marked by ashes we are reminded that we too will rise again. Confident of our own mortality, but faced with the ashes that give new life. By going into ourselves, by giving up things that keep us from God, by examining the ways that we are hurtful to one another, we too rise again.

The Poet John O’Donohue ends his Blessing for a New Beginning with this:

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Lent is our invitation to accept the call to adventure, to find a new way of living in the world with God and with one another. 

Explaining The Ash Wednesday Service to Children
We will explain what we are doing in chapel before we offer the imposition of Ashes. Please remind children that like communion, this is completely optional. If they do not want to receive ashes they can simply remain in their seat. You can remind them that the ashes symbolize that we are getting ready to enter into the season of Lent. During Lent we do things that help us to get closer to God. It is like spring training for followers of Jesus. The cross on our heads reminds us that we are getting ready for the mystery of Easter when Jesus died for us and rose again.

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