Ash Wednesday

Feb 17, 2010

Most of my praying happens outside of a church building. But I don’t want to underestimate the power of a sacred physical space to create for  me an intense experience of prayer.

I arrived at church at 7:30AM today to receive a smudge of ashes on my forehead–the symbol of my mortality and sin and the big black starter button for Lent. The morning sun shone through the stained glass.The congregation recited prayers in unison. The familiar words of Psalm 51 circled my head and rose towards the rafters. My woolen-garbed neighbors passed the sign of God’s Peace with a handshake.The priest swiveled his blackened thumb on my forehead and said the words from Genesis 3: ” Remember, you are but dust and to dust you shall return.” The bread and wine woke my sleepy taste buds and slid down my throat. This was whole-bodied prayer. It invited my taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell into the experience.

Couldn’t this have happened somewhere else? Maybe. But the specific physical space where I worshiped this morning set the stage for this special time of prayer. My prayers joined the millions of other full-bodied prayers offered in this place for almost 170 years.

Sybil MacBeth ©2010