“Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.” On Feb. 26, millions of Christians around the world will hear these words as they have ash-shaped crosses drawn on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day fast leading up to Easter.
Some think of Lent as an austere, dour time of guilt and self-denial. But such a view misses the real point. In the early church, Lent was traditionally set aside as a time of preparation for those who would be baptized on Easter.
It was intended as a time of fasting, learning and prayer. Lent invites us into a deeper, disciplined contemplation of our faith. Just as the church sets aside seasons for “feasting,” like Christmas and Easter, it also sets aside the season of Lent to “fast.”
In this fast-paced world of constant stimulation, consumption and “busyness,” time set aside for prayer, spiritual reading and reflection is sorely needed by many of us. As a spiritual exercise, we may choose to refrain from a normally enjoyed activity, but not as a “good work” that will somehow make God love us more, but to help us contemplate what the love of God truly means.
And the Lenten journey need not be solo. We may choose to attend special worship services offered by churches in our community. However you wish to move through the season of Lent, my only advice is that you somehow, in a way meaningful to you, embrace it.