The first of 40 days of sacrifice and reflection preceding the holiest day of the Christian calendar came Wednesday, even in the middle of a thrumming Denver International Airport.
Travelers, ticket agents and baggage handlers ducked into the small Interfaith Chapel at the end of a long row of fast-food stands in the terminal’s east side.
With Ash Wednesday, preparation for Easter was underway.
Many had to stand, and some peered through the glass walls of the overflowing chapel. They came to hear the Gospel and to wait for a daub of black ashes on their foreheads from a Catholic deacon.
Some came late. Some left early, glancing at watches and grabbing luggage to head for their gates.
“We kid that we have crowds at Easter and Christmas, but Ash Wednesday is just as compelling for people,” Deacon Jack Sutton said.
Sutton has done the Ash Wednesday ceremony at DIA for 10 years, although, for a reason he doesn’t remember, the service wasn’t held last year. This year, short services were offered at noon, which drew a stream of at least 50 people, and at 2:30 p.m.
“I like Easter and want to get ready for it. It’s the most important holiday, Jesus’ resurrection,” said 40-year-old Tiffiany Johnson. She was headed home to Mandaree, N.D., but first, she would attend the 2:30 p.m. service.
“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned,” Denver Archdiocese staff member Tony Schoenberger read at services. “Create in me a clean heart.”
In the background, the airport address system continued booming messages about gate changes and paging passengers.
“Today we begin our annual journey into Lent,” Sutton said. “The cross of ashes traced on our foreheads is an outward sign that we are to trace that cross inwardly, on our hearts.”
The Wall Street Journal has a nice article here. FYI it may be behind a subscription firewall.