A few years ago I wrote a deeply personal testimony about the significance of Ash Wednesday. Because sometimes I write deeply personal and significant things.
This is not one of those times.
This… well, this is just another anecdote from a day in the life of a Vicar’s Wife. And I sincerely hope it doesn’t offend…
After our usual Tuesday morning Bible Study was cancelled, I took the opportunity to take Tiny for a swim instead. I then filled her excited little cup to overflowing by following up with a trip to… wait for it… Lidl, of all places; in order to buy 20 bars of the cheapest Fairtrade Chocolate I could find, in order to bake 200 brownies for a ton of Bishops, because Husband has volunteered to host and organise them this weekend.
Such is life.
I call him on route to see if he needs anything…
Comes the reply…
“HANG ON! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
He is shouting over our blaring smoke alarm, whacking it emphatically with, I am almost certain, a sofa cushion.
“What are you doing?” I ask, suspecting a cheeky mid-morning pancake fail. “Is everything OK?”
“Yeah… hang on…”
He shuts the kitchen door and the sound ceases to deafen.
“Sorry… I’m just trying to make some ashes for tomorrow.”
Oh. As you do…
When I arrive back home the smell of burning has successfully permeated the entire house… but has yet to produce the desired results.
I chop things for lunch… he tears and pours things into a bucket.
“What are you doing now?”
“Still trying to make ashes.”
“Trying?” I raise a brow.
“Well, yeah, I’ve never done it before and they’re just coming out a bit too thick to spread…”
An American accent?
“When a priest prepares the ashes for Ash Wednesday, he or she-“
“Oh my goodness…. is that YouTube?!”
“Amazing. Didn’t they teach you all this at theological college?!”
“I think I must’ve been off that day…”
He trails off into the other room.
“Oh hi, just a quick call-“
He’s on the phone now. To his Training Incumbent (Priest in Charge). You know, after checking YouTube. Brilliant.
“Oil!” He comes back in. “He says to add oil!”
“Ok.” I pass it out of the cupboard. “So… if you were a proper priest- sorry– I mean like, traditional-”
“Yeah. If you were High Church, would you be doing this?”
“No way!” He exhales. “I’d have collected all of the palm crosses from our Church, from last Easter, and burned them. Before Shrove Tuesday.”
“Ooh… But I thought the whole point of the palm crosses was that people took them home?”
“Oh yeah… Good question. Not sure actually. I’ve got fresh ones in here anyway. Right, give me your hand please…”
“Mmm… a bit sloppy.”
He goes back to his mixing bowl, crosses some on my head, and then punches the air.
“Yes! Got it! Now we need to make some more.”
“Oooh can I help?!”
This is genuinely exciting. Who doesn’t love a fire?!
I write a Bible verse on a few pieces of scrap paper and we throw them into the flames. (See, I told you I could write deep and significant things…)
“God I pray that as these ashes touch people’s skin, Your Spirit would touch their hearts and minds. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
“Amen,” says the Vicar. “Nice prayer, babe.”
“Thanks. From the heart. Now… did you want the rest of that bacon for lunch?”