Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day journey (minus Sundays) toward Easter. Often you see people walking around with a dark smudge of ashes on their forehead. It is a sign of our mortality; “that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14) and to dust we shall return.
Lent is so much more than a worn-out tradition of old-school church marked by self-absorbed sorrow and meal-skipping.
Rather, Lent is our journey into greater depths with Jesus through an experience of His journey toward, into, and through the Cross. It is a preparation for a deeper experience of the joys of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
I usually participate in Lent in some form, by choosing to abstain from something, not just foods, and by grabbing onto some other sorts of practices that are helpful. The fasting aspect is helpful, I think, only insofar as we would put something else in its place that moves us toward Christ.
Traditional Lenten disciplines are fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Thus, we can see the movement from abstaining from something (fasting), turning to God (prayer), and putting another discipline in its place (almsgiving).
One of the things I may do this Lenten season is not listen to music or radio in the car. That’s hard for me. But what I’d like to put in its place is an attentiveness to God through prayer and listening during that time.
Read these words from the Ash Wednesday service from The Book of Common Prayer.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a Holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.