If you’ve heard of Lent, chances are one of the first things you think of is “giving something up,” as in “I’m giving up chocolate for Lent,” but you may be unfamiliar with the practices and purpose. I know that I was for many years. I’d see people walking around with a dirty smudge on their foreheads and wonder what that was all about?
For centuries, Christians from many different traditions have marked the start of the season of Lent with placing a cross or smudge of ashes on their foreheads or hands. Today starts the Lent Season and we call this day, Ash Wednesday.
It is often called the Day of Ashes. Why is it called this?
In the Bible, ashes remind us of our mortality, our repentance from sin, and our need for humility before God. Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are a time of self-examination and preparation, as we look forward to celebrating Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”
I’m sure you are familiar with how Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden and disobeyed God. Well, the curse of all humankind began from there…
Genesis 3:19 says, “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
So today, the ashes remind us that we are just dust. God is our Creator and Savior.
During Lent there are actually 46 days, but Sundays are not counted (you get those free to feast and celebrate God) so this practice allows for 40 days of Lent.
Today, Ash Wednesday kicks off our time to prepare our hearts and minds to get closer to God.
When we come forward to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, we are saying that we are sorry for our sins, and that we want to use the season of Lent to correct our wrongs, clean our hearts, control our wants and grow in holiness so we will be prepared to celebrate Easter with great joy and celebration!
“Lent” actually means “spring”— the season of new life. So in the midst of the winter cold as trees and animals are in hibernation, a kind of “death” (represented by ashes) that might be around us, there is also hope that new life is possible.
There are some practices that Christians implement during this season of Lent to help break bad habits and get back on a healthy path to right living for God.
Tomorrow we will look at those four practices during the 40 days of Lent. I hope you’ll join me. This season is necessary and if you’re anything like me, this last year has been stressful and a few poor habits have been formed that need breaking. I look forward to these practices inspiring right living before God, with a renewed spirit and hope within me.
Let’s journey to the cross together this Lent season.
I just love your writings! Reading about Lent in your words, is like a spring refresher of past studies! Though I’m 3000 miles away, your words have brought me home!
Thank you, Vicki! I miss studying with you, and I’m grateful that these blogs make you feel a little closer to home. God bless you.