This evening our priest had to deal with a sudden emergency, so our deacon and I were asked to do a communion service with the distribution of ashes.
I just love surprises, especially when I have no idea what the heck I am doing.
Now I realize it’s not all that big a deal. The only thing I had to add was ashes right? How hard can that be? It’s not rocket science. You just dip your thumb in the ashes, and mark a cross on the forehead of everyone that walks up, right?
Well, first you have to realize I found out about the change about five minutes before the service started. I also was suddenly appointed to read the readings for the day, which I had not read. Not to mention that this particular service was held in the middle of adoration, so the monstrance and all appropriate paraphernalia had to be put away as well. So in the rush to get the alter prepared, I did not have time to even look over the readings, and of course the church was packed to the brim.
Then it happened. Our lovely and wonderful choir director asked me to sing the psalm, which I also have not looked at.
You get the picture. I’m suddenly overly involved in a service where I had planned on sitting in the pews with my family. As our deacon was doing the introductory prayers, I’m reading the readings for the first time. As everyone is saying the confiteor, I’m studying the music for the psalm.
Everything went alright of course. I read okay, and while I started the psalm a little high, I was canting so there was no accompaniment to showcase it. So as I came back to the pew, I was thankful that I had pulled it off. I thanked the Holy Spirit for His guiding hand, and then I was suddenly reminded.
I have to do the ashes.
I just didn’t think about it at all before. Yes, yes, I knew I had to do it, but until that second I just didn’t really think about it. As the deacon was reading the gospel, it suddenly dawned on me that I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t remember what to say!
My mind is racing back to last year, “What was it that they say?” Something about ashes? The phrase “dust to dust” kept rolling through my mind. Crap! Crap! What to say?! I am seriously freaking out.
It’s time. I just walk up as confident as possible, while inside I am a dang whirlwind of Lenten phrasology. (Yes, I know that’s not a word, but at this point I’m making up words left and right.)
Then the obvious happens. You probably already saw this coming. The deacon crosses my head, and says everything I need to hear. “Repent, and turn back to the gospel.” Now I know what to say.
Phew. Let the finger painting begin!
I have to say, I think it’s awesome that all these people are coming up to have me wipe black stuff on their foreheads. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally into the solemnity of the moment, but I just can’t escape the fact that this is plain fun. It’s like kindergarten all over again.
I love watching the kids give me that blank stare, feeling their foreheads as they walk away. You can almost feel the fear from well dressed women, “Oh I hope he doesn’t make the cross so big that my whole forehead is black.” (By the way, I have found that getting underneath a woman bangs is quite an exercise in dexterity!) The men are all acting tough. “Go ahead man, mark me, do your worst.” I have this wonderful duality going on through my mind, the solemn atmosphere of penance, coupled with the fact that this is absolutely hilarious.
We should do this all the time.