Our traditional taize’ Ash Wednesday service will be offered this year on zoom. The same service will be offered at 8 am and at 7 pm. This is a service of quiet and reflection, singing and contemplation. Please join us.
Part of the service will be the imposition of ashes. Because of the zoom setting, after a common liturgy for the ashes we will all impose ashes on our own foreheads at the same time. Our zoom screen will serve as our mirror for watching ourselves as we make the sign of the cross on our own foreheads with ashes. I have always thought that the ritual was sort of funny — that maybe more than everyone else seeing my limitation and mortality, I should have to see it myself. As if I should walk around all day with a handheld mirror to see the cross on my forehead. This year’s ritual will make that possible. This could be powerful…
To prepare for you have to make ashes. Relax, it’s not that hard. I make them every year. And fire’s always fun.
I do them in a metal container outdoors, but if you have a fireplace, barbecue, etc.
The traditionalist may have palms from last year. A decent North American substitute could be dried grasses. (I noticed two pots full on my deck the other day.) Any dried plant from inside or out will work. You might even find a pile of dead leaves. (Do be careful — you might be surprised how quickly, hot, and smoky dried vegetation burns.
You could also try tearing up little pieces of paper to burn. Before tearing it up, you might write on the paper the things you wish to give up or sins you need forgiveness from or…
I’ve heard of someone who just plans to burn toast and then scrape off the black for ashes.
I heard another person just suggest that they might take dirt from plant plot in their window. The phrase is, after all, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Dust and water would make for a nice forehead cross.
Or you can just use oil. Cooking oils or massage oils would be fine.
A word of caution: with ashes, you want to mix them with oll not water. (Ash and water can create lye which burns.) Dirt could be mixed with either water or oil. To get your mixture kind of wet does make the forehead marking easier (take it from an experienced practitioner!)
When you make your ashes, you might want to say this prayer:
Holy, holy, holy God
I place myself in your presence; I rest in the promise of your grace.
My mind and my spirit are cluttered with many thoughts and feelings that threaten to pull my attention away from you. Let me unclench my fists and release these things:
I release all that I have done today–whether for good or for ill.
I release all that I feel like I should have done today, but did not do.
I release all that I need to do tomorrow.
I release my fear. I release my anxiety. I release my impatience. I release my pride.
All of the thoughts, all of the feelings that pull me away from you, O God, I release. [silence]
Fill me now with the joy and the peace of your deep, abiding presence even as the smoke creating my ashes rises to heaven.
I offer all of myself to you, my One God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Amen