Ash Wednesday – Beginning our Lenten Journey

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.

5 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday – Beginning our Lenten Journey

  1. The words in your blog this morning stirred my thoughts to more significant personal action. Because of my church heritage, I have always believed that the time of Lent was very important to me and my Spiritual walk, but I have never seemed to ‘live it out’ the way I do the season of Advent. Early this morning I was mulling on the day and thinking how some people ‘give something up’ for Lent and that I have never done this—I found myself looking on this as a type of personal sacrifice; then, I saw your blog—especially this line: “The fasting aspect is helpful, I think, only insofar as we would put something else in its place that moves us toward Christ.” Putting something in its place—so little about any minor sacrifice I might make, and all about it leading me to “greater depths with Jesus.” Thanks for already drawing me into self-examination; I will follow up with prayer, study, and meditation—and, who knows, maybe even some type of fasting.

    • Thanks for the personal reflections on comments. My approach to Lent has changed quite a bit after reading Dallas Willard’s categories of spiritual disciplines into those of abstinence and those of engagement in “The Spirit of the Disciplines.”

      He indicates that we will not fully benefit from the disciplines of abstinence (e.g., fasting, solitude) unless we also move into a disciplines of engagement (e.g., prayer, Scripture meditation).

  2. Our church has latched onto Ash Wednesday as a life-giving experience the past couple years, but I’d like to do a little more with Lent itself. Although I could stand to be a little more well rounded, I’ve typically found somber traditions to develop me more than the celebratory.

    • Brian, how does your church ‘latch onto’ Ash Wednesday? I talked with someone else yesterday who has a church setting that views Ash Wednesday as important, but doesn’t do much else with Lent overall.

      I think that we need the more somber or sober celebrations to go along with our tendencies toward the celebratory and victorious (i.e., we can do anything) in our culture.

      • We had a reflective service – not a lot of talking and singing, mainly just readings, prayers, and communion.

        As part of the experience, we hosted a visual art show. It really turned out neat with 65 local artists and 140+ works – I’ll get you a link when we have some photos uploaded. The artwork was on the theme “Reflections,” and therefore tied in to what we feel Ash Wednesday is about. I turned into a great dialog on key concepts and visual expression.

        Our sermon series is going to take a Lent-like theme from now until Easter, but we haven’t necessarily advised a commitment to sacrifice and repentance to go along with it.

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