Author: Caroline Osborn
The Marketplace was decorated in purple swaths of fabric and decorative masks on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Marketplace employees donned plastic and tinsel crown in celebration of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. The festival was created as a final day of indulgence in celebration and heavy foods before Lent.
Some students perceived it as an opportunity to do something fun and different from their everyday routine. “We went to Popeye’s for lunch,” Marla Potterveld (first-year) said.
The following day marked an important event on the Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday designates the beginning of Lent, the forty-day ritual of prayer, fasting, giving alms, and reflective thought leading up to Holy Week and Easter Sunday. During these forty days, Christians often choose to give up a luxury item or specific activity that contributes to their lives in counterproductive ways, such as dessert or Facebook. It is also a time for Christians to deepen their relationship with God.
When asked about her Lent suggestions for students who identify as Christian, Reverend Susan Young said, “I would invite students to try to carve out moments in their day when they simply seek to rest in God’s presence by listening to contemplative music, lighting candles and sitting and taking long, deep and cleansing breathes. And, students could write their own prayers or read prayers from the Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Bible.”
Lent is traditionally a time for Christians to remember their mortality, humble themselves before God (represented symbolically with a cross of ash on the brow), and reconsider the way they live, adjusting it to better approximate the model presented by Christ. Students interested in meditation or prayer (no matter their religious or spiritual identity) are invited to walk the labyrinth in Upper Herrick any Thursday of the following month between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Reverend Young has seen even nonreligious students affected by the labyrinth. “I know that many students who are not Christian have found walking the labyrinth to be a very powerful spiritual experience. We make the labyrinth available during finals week and students have told me that walking the labyrinth helps them release their anxiety and center themselves,” she said.
During lunch hour on Wednesday, students and faculty gathered in Herrick for an Ash Wednesday service. A long table laden with white candles and the stained glass window served as backdrops for Reverend Susan Young and Father David Willis Geib as they led the congregation in prayer and hymns and presented readings from the Bible. Reverend Young imparted a meditation in which she said, “Prayer is [. . .] simply sitting in the presence of God.”
Father Geib and Reverend Young bestowed the Imposition of Ashes, or the marking of the brow with a cross of ash. As Father Geib performed the ritual, he told each recipient, “Remember, child, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Worshippers lefts Herrick ready for a month of contemplation and conversation with God.
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