15 February 2013

Ash Wednesday Meaning and the Start of Lent

If you wish to learn more about the meaning of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent then you'll want to read this article all the way through to the end.
Specifically in this article I'll be discussing what the spirit of Ash Wednesday and Lent is all about and the meaning of following in Christ's footsteps as the Christian's first duty on earth.

Jesus In Agony Repairing For Our Sins
Lent is the forty day season in the Church's calendar which serves to prepare Christians (through prayer, fasting and almsgiving) for the ‘feast of all feasts’ the most important day in the Christian year, Easter.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent (the day after the pancake party on Shrove (-meaning to 'shrive'-have a penance for commiting a sin) Tuesday where people feast the night before Lent)

Each year the date for Ash Wednesday, which incidentally is always a Wednesday! is different as the 40 days before Easter change each year.

On Ash Wednesday Christians from all over the world prepare to contemplate and imitate the 'suffering servant' of Isaiah, Christ in ways ways suited to their health and age. We remember the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert where he was tempted three times by the devil and overcame the tempter.
These 40 days in the desert were the preparation period for Jesus' public ministry and miracles and after this his next stop was the Wedding Feast of Cana and all that wine! Mary, the Mother of Jesus heralded in the messianic mission with her request to help the soon to be embarrased couple! Mary too, ushers in many miracles in our lives if we ask her to intercede with her Son who can refuse her nothing, since she refused him nothing!

In this important liturgical season of the Church therefore, Christians try to fast off food or cigarettes or TV and other things they may enjoy and unite these with the sacrifices Jesus made for us. I hate liver so if I fasted off liver it would be no sacrifice so in a way it has to 'hurt' a bit or else it would be a pointless offering but it all has to be done with love for the Lord in our hearts!

Sacrifices made for love of him who loved us and 'gave himself up for us' on the Cross strengthen our love for Jesus and they purify us too to receive more of the light of Christ in our hearts and lives so we can bring in more of the Kingdom on earth.

Love grows in the fires of sacrifice and self denial for the good of others as any parent will understand.

As well as giving up things, Christians also aim to 'give' in the form of icreased almsgiving by giving more money to charity or giving up more of their time to help others or to pray more.
The soul therefore, by denying the body (the fleshly life in us) should then become spiritually stronger and more spiritually nourished. Because we live in such a materialistic culture our souls which need food just as our flesh does are often starving so Lent gives our souls a nourishing transfusion of spiritual food to keep them strong in Christ!
Christ gave everything up for us! We can surely give up some things for him?
Also like Jesus in the desert Christians try to with God's grace conquer temptations such as selfishness, pride and unloving behaviour. These temptations come to us from many avenues and in many ways. Some we invite in through impure material and others come to us unawares and catch us off guard.

Therefore“prayer, fasting and almsgiving” sum up the keys to good Lenten practice, the meaning of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. Because of the call to prayer, Christians attend Church services on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the new season in the Church’s calendar. At the service, the priest or pastor marks the believer’s forehead with a cross of ashes (the ashes come from the burned blessed palms used the year before on Palm Sunday).

The Cross is always the sign of the New Covenant of God with man when Jesus was crucified for us and it serves to remind us of sacrifice and that we are dust in our bodies which will soon die but have an immortal soul.

The goal of a Christian’s life is to be conformed more and more into the image of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, into whose image humans we were made at the time of creation, an image which was obscured by sin.
From the purification of Lent which starts off on Ash Wednesday, Christians are able to approach the great Solemnity of Easter with hearts purified, their souls nourished and their love for God and their fellow men renewed.