The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of Easter Sunday. It is a season that is generally marked with a more reflective and penitential tone. We often think of it as a time of preparation, growing spiritually as we get closer to the mystery of Jesus’ death on a cross, his resurrection on Easter Sunday, and the life that we have because of that.
In the early Church, Lent was often a time of more intense and dedicated learning and devotional practice as people prepared for baptism and entrance into the Christian community. We still very much tie our understanding of baptism into the Lenten and Easter seasons.
The season of Lent is 40 days long (we don’t count the Sundays during Lent), which is representative of Jesus’ 40 days fasting in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry. See Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; and Luke 4:1-13. It also brings to mind other parallels: Moses spent 40 days with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18); Elijah took 40 days to walk to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); Noah experienced the great flood from 40 days and 40 nights of rain (Genesis 7:1-4); Jonah gave the city of Nineveh 40 days to repent (Jonah 3:1-5); the Israelites wandered in the desert, relying on God for 40 years (Numbers 14:33).
Historically, Lent is a time of self-reflection and repentance, prayer and fasting, and sacrificial giving. You may have heard the phrase “giving up something for Lent.” Often, people observing Lent will fast from something – give something up – as a spiritual discipline. It could be a certain type of food (like meat), or a behaviour that someone might consider a vice (like smoking or caffeine). Others will add something, like reading daily devotions or spiritual reflections or praying more regularly (you can find resources here to help you with that). Some spend extra time and/or give more money to a charitable organization. All of these activities are meant to bring us closer to God and strengthen our faith as we put our trust in Jesus Christ.
We gather together for worship on Ash Wednesday each year and take part in some rituals that have been practiced for centuries. we confess and repent of our sins together. We are invited into the practices and disciplines of the season of Lent that are listed above.
The most notable ritual on this night is the ‘imposition of ashes.’ We have the sign of the cross marked on our foreheads in ash while we hear the words often spoken at the graveside during a funeral – ‘”remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This practice reminds us of our mortality, and reinforces our need for Christ to to give us new life again. The practice reminds us that we all rely on God’s mercy and grace.
You are welcome to join us for this worship experience. The worship service details are here.