Some reflections on Ash Wednesday
Today is Ash Wednesday. The start of the Lenten season. It is the 40 days (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter. It is intended to be a time of solemn reflection, self-discipline, contrition, and repentance.
Why 40 days? Some people see 40 being a significant number in the Bible. In this particular instance I believe it is most commonly related to Jesus’ 40 days in the Judaean wilderness before the launch his public ministry.
The Lenten season is not a commanded anywhere in the Bible. But it has been practiced within the Church in some form for over 1,000 years, most significantly within the Catholic church.
Some people abstain from certain foods, sweets, and drinks during this time. And on Fridays many Christians, mostly Catholics, abstain from all mean except for fish.
On Ash Wednesday many Christians go to church services which practice the tradition of marking their foreheads with ashes in the sign of the cross. Some churches even burn the previous year’s palm branches from Palm Sunday to make the ashes. Ashes are a common expression of mourning in the Bible (1 Sm 13:19, Est 4:1, Is 61:3; Est 4:3, Jer 6:26, Ez 27:30, Dn 9:3, Mt 11:21, Lk 10:13).
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
I like the season of lent because it encourages us to slow down. To humble ourselves. To contemplate and be thankful. We all need to slow down sometimes. To potentially practice some self-discipline by abstaining from various activities or food or drink. I think that is good for us. To not necessarily try to live as comfortably as possible every moment of our days. To recognize life isn’t easy. It’s hard. There is struggle. There is suffering. There is grief and sorrow. There is death.
This year I’m not abstaining from anything specific. But I am making intentional steps towards making healthier decisions physically. And as soon as it warms up a little bit here, I plan on starting running again a bit. Not necessarily every day. But regularly.
I also saw a series that is going on called 30 Second Bible. In this series, every day new videos will come up summarizing the overall theme of background or message of a book of the Bible. I’m curious what it is going to be like, and I plan on following along. Maybe you would be interested, too. Apparently you can also follow along on Twitter and Facebook.