Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Today is a Wednesday, yes, and Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week. But perhaps I shouldn’t say such a brazen thing because it might not be completely true if I thought about it more. Well, anyhow, today it is true.

Actually, it is Ash Wednesday, my friends. Before today, I knew only outlines about Ash Wednesday, without any content. So, I went looking and this is what I found…

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season (the forty days leading up to the passion of the Christ and His glorious resurrection). Ash Wednesday gets its name from the traditional practice of having ashes wiped onto ones forehead as a outward sign of inward repentance. Interesting to me, I found that in some cases, the ashes are collected from the previous years’ Palm Sunday palm crosses, which are burned after the celebration to preserve for this special ash day.

The practice of wearing ashes is a liturgical one and includes mixing the ashes in with some oil, which may even be sacred Catechumens oils. Traditionally, a practice in Catholicism, it is practiced in many other denominations and has deep meaning there. The priest presiding over the service makes the sign of the cross and then over each who kneels before him to receive the ash mixture. He recites a verse: “Remember, O Man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” (Genesis 3:19) or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” (Mark 1:15) or “Repent, and hear the good news” (Mark 1:15).

Lent represents the time Jesus spent in the desert, enduring the temptation of Satan. This time period is a liturgical season of fasting and prayer as each day draws nearer to Easter. It serves to prepare the believer through special spiritual disciplines of prayer (justice towards God), self-denial/abstinence/fasting (justice towards self), almsgiving (justice towards others) in readiness for the commemoration that takes place during Holy Week. I like the idea of justice carried out through these symbolic actions.

Every year, I hear or read of friends and family deciding of what they should deny themselves for Lent. I have seen various things… abstinence from make-up, television, movies, chocolate, coffee, or a complete fast for set time periods. I think I have participated in the past, but I don’t remember and that forces me to acknowledge that it must have been insignificant in my mind and therefore, without any true purpose, because I always remember important things. This year, I’d like to take it seriously and I’ve considered what to give up for 40 days … and what to take up in its stead.

And I'm going to take it seriously this time.