Today is Ash Wednesday. In light of recent events, I offer up my prayers throughout the Lenten Season to the people of Ukraine and Russia. The world stands witness to evil wrapped in the form of a single human being who has been allowed to rise to power. Lord, be with us all. Amen.
Ash Wednesday was once exclusively observed by Catholics throughout the world. That is no longer the case. Many Protestant denomination also mark the beginning of Lent with ashes.
The use of ashes originates in Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. The early Church continued the use of ashes for the same symbolic reasons. Early on ashes were sprinkled on the heads of people leaving confession who were required to do public penance for their sins. In the Middle Ages, those about to die were laid on the ground on top of sackcloth and sprinkled with ashes. The priest blessed the dying person with holy water, saying “Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.” Eventually, the use of ashes was adapted to mark the beginning of Lent, the 40-day preparation period before Easter.
Now if you were to count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, there are more than 40 days. Sundays, the day of the Lord, are not counted during this time of penance. Sundays are a day of celebration. As a Catholic, I “Celebrate the Mass” when I attend Sunday service.
During the remaining 40-days we are encouraged to mourn – to be filled with true sorrow for all we have done wrong. God has never expected His children to be perfect, but He does ask that we be sorry for our mistakes.
In days of old, the Faithful were asked to give up something for Lent – to make a sacrifice that was symbolic of the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross. As a child it was something simple such as giving up candy or ice cream or Saturday Morning Cartoons.
Then one Ash Wednesday our priest made a suggestion that has stuck with me all these years – give up anger. Give up distrust. Give up time and spend it doing charitable works. Give up that five-dollar cup of coffee, take up a collection and give it to those in need. Make a difference. Let your sacrifice, however small, impact the world around you.
Most of us want to be better. Most of us want to make a difference. That’s God speaking to our hearts, whispering to our souls. Listen and follow His call wherever it may lead you.
Ash Wednesday is a day of both abstinence and fasting. Any food consumed on this day cannot include meats. And the servings must be smaller, so that the total combined would be less than a full meal on any other day. The Church in her wisdom now realizes that a full fast, going without anything for an extended period of time is unhealthy. Faith should never harm. So the rules have changed.
In our house we observe Ash Wednesday by having a single, smaller meal that is served after sundown. Soup is a great meal to serve because it gives warmth to the body, and that warms the soul. Soup, even one made with crab, is humble by its very nature. Have a blessed Lenten Season.
1 large White Onion
1 Celery Rib
1 bunch fresh Asparagus
2 (6.5 oz) cans Lump Crabmeat
2 medium Red Potatoes
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 cup Chicken Stock
2 cups Half-and-Half cream
Fresh Black Pepper
Peel and dice onion, set aside. Clean, trim and chop celery, set aside. Clean, trim and cut asparagus into 3/4-inch pieces, set aside. Snip parsley for garnish, set aside. Drain crabmeat, flake apart and set aside. Scrub potatoes, cut into bite-size cubes and set aside.
In a large saucepan, sauté onion and celery in butter. Stir in the flour, Old Bay Seasoning, salt, and pepper until blended. Gradually add chicken stock; bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in potatoes. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Add asparagus; cook about 10 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the cream and most of the crab; heat through.
Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and fresh black pepper. Top with a little crabmeat.
Serve with warm bread and give thanks.