In my Parish, the Crucifix hangs about midway down the center aisle. As a somewhat recent convert to Catholicism, this image of our Lord was not part of my former Protestant visual language. It’s very curious to me that it wasn’t, now. We had crosses of every shape and design. It’s just that Jesus’ body wasn’t on them. Of course, thousands of books and sermons about this difference have been written. I don’t need to add to that here.
What I am reflecting on, as Ash Wednesday quickly approaches, is that moment (at least in my Parish) where everyone stands underneath that Crucifix, this visual language, and publicly acknowledges their sorrow for their sins. We are acutely aware of our frailty and our mortality. We want to turn away.
For me, this moment before we receive the mark of ashes is one of such intensity. The air is almost too heavy, but not full of dread. I can almost hear hearts beating. Everyone there is concentrating….hard. The prayers hang in the air. We are about to leave some things behind.
I feel a tremendous sense of unity in this moment with those around me. The high places are made low. The man I don’t know sitting next to me is my brother. And, I am a member of this parish family. And, we do sin. We acknowledge it. We want to do better.
A holy Protestant friend of mine once told me his Pastor said. “The Catholic Church is a works Church”. Meaning, as I understand it, that its faithful do good works and penances to help save their souls, Christ being not quite enough to do that. So much misinformation…..and then, it occurred to me…..of course, the Crucifix hanging above me!
For it isn’t about any prayers, fasting or good works I hope I will do this Season of Lent. Christ alone saves souls. I will never save myself. For me, Ash Wednesday is a response. The Crucifix depicts the greatest gift ever given. And as my Parish Priest Fr. Slowiak says frequently, “And what is our response?” Penance is one kind of response. There are so many kinds….even silence instead of voicing a remark.
The Holy Season of Lent has many facets and moments to reveal to us. I pray that you and I will watch and wait for them, and respond in a Christlike way. Prayers, Fasting, Almsgiving~ all excellent responses. Humility, thoughtfulness, concern, simplicity~also very good. Forgiveness~perhaps that may include ourselves. It’s almost time…so let’s go on this journey of Lent together….unified. A family.
– by Bruce LaCrosse
As is my custom, I share a sketch I have done on this theme.