Mennonite churches have not historically focused on the man made religious rituals in the 40 days leading to Easter.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of an ancient but relatively new tradition that the Mennonites have taken on, as the following examples from the March 2014 issue of their Mennonite Brethren Herald magazine confirm.
What I like about Lent
by Dora Dueck
Lent was not part of my experience growing up in a Mennonite church. It was something that “others” did (read: Catholics), and when one is young, what those others do often seems vastly inferior to what one’s own people do. We celebrated Good Friday and Easter and that was enough. Lent had an aura of gloominess and “works righteousness” about it, and we were beyond all that striving and uncertainty and climbing the stairs to heaven on our knees. (I speak as a child.)
But in the meanwhile, many Mennonite churches, including my own, have adopted various practices of the liturgical calendar, and I’ve come to appreciate Lent’s invitation to reflection, to deep consideration of Christ and the cross, to give up or to take on. To see oneself as one is: as in the words of Thomas Merton, “I walk from region to region of my soul and I discover that I am a bombed city.” To hear oneself named “Beloved” in the midst of that desolation.
One can do this any time, of course, but Ash Wednesday with its formal beginning and the six Sundays leading up to Easter with their liturgies and sermons and reminders are helps along the way.
So it’s a good time. But one of the things I like best about Lent is that it’s not a big deal in the wider culture. It’s not commercial. Having ashes imposed (I love that word for this ritual) to mark repentance and awareness of being “dust” seems by now, in fact, the strange activity of a strange minority . . .
Note: Thomas Merton is thought to be the greatest popularizer of interspirituality and said “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” Click here for more.