For most of the Catholic world, Lent began with the solemnities of Ash Wednesday. For our household, however, it began on the cheerful Monday morning proceeding it. The Maronites, one of the eastern rites within the Catholic Church, God bless them, celebrate something called "Ash Monday." Apparently this has to do with how the days of Lent are counted. I must be honest and admit that I am not altogether sure how, exactly, these two extra days are divided up and spread over a six-week period. Really, it does make the whole first week of Lent seem rather schizophrenic. Ash Monday's fast and abstinence is immediately followed by "Fat Tuesday." The next day, of course, is Ash Wednesday. There exists one blessed day of reprieve before proceeding into the first Friday in Lent. It is a crazy schedule. Nevertheless, my Husband is a Maronite, and so, Ash Monday it is!
At least this makes life amusing... Almost as amusing as receiving remarks from random strangers on Ash Wednesday, said kindly enough to be sure, but rather like they are speaking to a half-wit, that there is something on your forehead. :-)
Two years later, I remember kneeling before the crucifix again. This time, I cried out to God in my brokenness. I had left the university, and a serious relationship, because I could no longer deny the call of Christ to convert. On Ash Wednesday of that year, I had managed somehow to slip out in time for the Noon day Mass. It was my very first Ash Wednesday service. Terror still mingled with uncertainty, but something about the imposition of the blessed ashes upon my forehead gave me the strength to do what I must. Soon thereafter, my parents were alerted as to my intentions. My life became a virtual prison, for I was placed under house arrest except for work, all of my belongings were constantly searched, and I was taken from pastor to pastor to try to talk me out of this decision. Although my intentions had been to join the Church that Easter, I saw Easter Sunday come and go, and it broke my heart. It became abundantly apparent what I must do. My parents had already given me an ultimatum: Remain the faith I was raised as and enjoy their protection or become Catholic and leave. At long last, I chose to leave.
Although I never again lived at home, my parents did eventually allow visits. Nearly a year later, and instead of anguish and concerns, the Face of Christ beheld the elated joy a newly baptised and confirmed soul. Later, it looked upon the face of an excited bride-to-be, and then, a radient wife. Over the years, that crucifix has seen a myriad of worries and anticipations. It has heard my fervent cries to God, as well as heartfelt thanksgiving. It is a fixture that has seen me through many of life's changes.
May you all continue to have a very blessed and holy Lent.