25 Random Notes on Ash Wednesday
25 Random Notes on Ash Wednesday
- I woke up early to my roommate putting away the silverware in the kitchen, then fell back asleep.
- When I woke up the wooden rosary that I fell asleep with wrapped around my hand was lost in the sheets.
- Last night I was asked if I keep any symbolic hidden things on my body, like a locket or a rolled-up scroll. No. But sometimes I hold them in my sleep. Why? Magic.
- An hour after breakfast should have happened, I grew so angry that I had to bang my fist on a table. This is unusual. But anytime I do this I think of Mr. Rogers, who suggested hitting clay when you’re mad. Maybe it was the hunger, or maybe it was the email I had just received from my editor.
- I got to the midday Ash Wednesday service at the local church half an hour too late.
- So I went to my new favorite cafe and ordered their Seasonal Homemade Kombucha. Halfway through I got extremely jittery and started sketching out this novel I keep meaning to write.
- Accidentally told the waitress that I’m fasting for Lent.
- The novel is an apology for lonely men I’ve known in my life. It’s a political novel. It would be a memoir if I had a good memory.
- Does God want my loneliness, or do I just want God all to myself?
- In the stomachy jitters—it’s uncanny—the tremors of God.
- A dear friend called from far away. I told her she made my day. Does that make her an angel? Or just a person I miss?
- When I go to the service and get the ashes on my forehead, should I rub them off afterward?
- Searching “ash wednesday” on Flickr, I discovered, reveals a wonderful collage of people with ashes on their foreheads. They’re not ashamed.
- But maybe it’s impolite to people if I walk around with ashes on my forehead. What does it say? “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”? “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”? That’s what the priest says when he puts them on. Is that impolite?
- Last Ash Wednesday, I attended a service at Judson Memorial Church mourning the loss of Washington Square Park, and I wrote about it for my first article as a real New York freelancer. But can mourning be made out of self-righteousness?
- I prefer this, a confused and lonely Ash Wednesday. The hunger possesses, but is not possessed.
- The cat has been following me around the apartment as I work on my computer. When she eats, I get hungry.
- “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God” (Joel 2:13) Check. Won’t tear my clothes.
- “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18) Oops. Maybe I shouldn’t be broadcasting this to all the voyeurs on the internet.
- Soon after sunset, listening to a podcast, I fell blessedly asleep. Secular dreams.
- Because I missed the daytime service, I have to get my ashes at night. Which means perhaps nobody will see me on the street with a gray cross thumbed onto my forehead.
- In the middle of the mass, there was a great boom during the consecration. Something must have fallen. Later, I felt like I almost dropped the Eucharist from my palm. My only solid food all day.
- Oh yeah, I forgot: solidarity with the poor and hungry. Why doesn’t the priest mention that?
- Hungry yet happy. Smelling like John the Baptist.
- The glory of these forty days
We celebrate with songs of praise;
For Christ, by whom all things were made,
Himself has fasted and has prayed.
Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.