Ash Wednesday

William is at “that age.”  That age when he’s mobile and so very eager to get down and explore, yet too little to understand the necessity of being still during Mass (or at least being in one place, specifically the pew).  Taking that into consideration, we decided to celebrate Ash Wednesday a little differently this year.  I wanted both of my kids to experience the fullness and beauty of the day so we decided to have our own celebration at home (well, at my parent’s home since we were visiting them). 

The night before, we enlisted the help of Dad.  He and Joseph found and burned the palms from last year for our ashes. 

The morning of Ash Wednesday, Joseph and I baked pretzels.  According to tradition, the pretzel is an ancient Christian Lenten bread, going back as far as the 4th century.  Since Lent is a time of fasting (at that time fasting included no milk, butter, eggs, cheese, cream, or meat) the pretzel is a perfect Lenten bread.  It consists of basically flour, salt, and water.  The shape of the pretzel symbolizes the form of crossed arms because that is how people prayed in ancient times, with arms crossed over their chests.  I found a delicious pretzel recipe at www.cdkitchen.com for Aunt Annie’s Soft Pretzels. 

After our pretzels were ready, we invited Leslie and Alex down to join us (Alex is at “that age” too!) for our Ash Wednesday ceremony.  We mixed some oil with our ashes and Joseph helped me to set up a beautiful makeshift prayer altar (our Jesus Box was at home). 

Our ceremony began with Joseph blessing our pretzels.  We used a prayer from Catholic Culture.  Here is our shortened version:

We beg you, O Lord, to bless these breads which are to remind us that Lent is a sacred season of penance and prayer. Grant us, we pray, that we too, may be reminded by the sight of these pretzels to observe the holy season of Lent with true devotion and great spiritual fruit. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

After the blessing of the pretzels, Mom read to us Isaiah 58:5-10. 

Next we distributed our ashes.  As we did so, we recited from Ecclesiastes 3:20 “All come from dust and to dust all return.” 

To conclude our ceremony, we had a grand time burying “Alleluia” and “Gloria” since those are words that are not used in Church during Lent.  I gave Joseph the letters for the two words and he spelled them out and then he found hiding places for the words. 

Our Ash Wednesday ceremony was a success…it was nothing elaborate, but it was filled with ancient tradition and beautiful prayer.  The best part was there was no pressure to keep the little ones quiet…while this is not a feasible option for most Church celebrations, it was a nice break for Ash Wednesday.   

Just a note: If we choose to do it again at home in the future, I will add the gospel reading from Matthew 6 and discuss fasting, praying, and almsgiving, although by next year, William will be past “that age” and we’ll probably go back to celebrating Ash Wednesday with Mass…but I think this year set the stage for a few new traditions of our own, including the pretzel ceremony.

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