Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the traditional season of Lent, a 40-day journey (minus Sundays) toward Easter.
Some may ask, what is Lent all about? Lent is more than a worn-out tradition of the old-school church marked by self-absorbed sorrow and meal-skipping. Rather, Lent is our journey into greater depths of life with Jesus Christ. The 40-day journey reminds us of Jesus’ 40-day temptation in the desert before starting his public ministry. It reminds us of the people of Israel led by Moses through the wilderness for 40 years before entering the promised land. We enter into Jesus’ journey toward, into, and through the Cross. It is a preparation for a deeper experience of the joys of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Some may ask, why are people wearing ashes on their foreheads on this day? It is common practice on Ash Wednesday for you to see people walking around with a dark smudge of ashes on their forehead. Firstly, it is a sign of our mortality: “that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14) and to dust we shall return.Secondly it is a sign of repentance, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).
Others may ask, do we need to pay attention to human traditions like this? No, but it is a great opportunity to focus on Jesus, His Cross, and His resurrection for a prolonged period of time. It may save us from making the high points of Spring our holiday vacation or candy on Easter day.
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).
Watching the following video may capture your imagination more than my words.