The Mills Chapel was filled with golden mid-day light as the warm sound of calm cello music, played by Mills College student Devon Thrumstron, ushered people in for the special lunch-time Ash Wednesday service that took place on Feb. 25.
The service included a reading from Isaiah about generosity, singing, and the ritual of lighting candles for individual silent prayers. Many opted to have Mills College Chaplin Erica Macs rub ashes on their foreheads in the sign of the cross.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a forty-day period in preparation for Easter. According to the Bible, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert, being tempted by the Devil. Lent represents this experience of fasting in a desert-like place in our own lives.
The ashes Macs gave out on Ash Wednesday are to remind people of the desert times in their lives. Macs spoke of how the ashes also remind people of the “impermanence of material things and the permanence of the spirit.”
The period of Lent is about renewal. Macs compared it to the “tilling of winter soil,” in preparation of the coming spring. She spoke of the process of “schlepping off of the clutter” and other excess in an effort to “renew the core essence of our core being.” The metaphorical fast of Lent is cleansing for a person’s spirit.
Practicing Christians often give up something for the forty days of Lent. Commonly vices and bad habits are given up, such as eating too many desserts, swearing, smoking, and sex. This helps people focus on more important things like spirituality and helping others. It also helps them to see their lives more clearly.
Thrumston, a practicing Episcopalian, along with a friend has given up television for Lent. “It is so easy,” she said, “at the end of your day, to flip on your favorite channel and tune the world out.”
Lent challenges people to be more conscious in one’s actions. “By taking that temptation out of our lives, we are able to focus on our present relationships, our school work, and ourselves. We have been cooking more, studying more, and taking more walks. It has been lovely,” said Thrumston.
Macs ended the beautiful service by reading T.S. Eliot’s poem entitled, “Ash Wednesday.” People were invited to stay in the Chapel and pray while the cello music continued.