Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the traditional day each year that begins the observation of the season of Lent. What is Lent?
Early in the Church’s history, the major events in Christ’s life were observed with special observances, such as His birth, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension. As these observances developed, a period of time was set aside prior to the major events of Jesus’ birth and resurrection as a time of preparation. During Lent, the Church’s worship assumes a more penitential character. The color for the season is purple, a color often associated with penitence. The “Hymn of Praise” is omitted from the liturgy. The word “Alleluia” is usually omitted as well. By not using the alleluia–a joyful expression meaning “Praise the Lord”–until Easter, the Lenten season is clearly set apart as a distinct time from the rest of the year. Additionally, it forms a powerful contrast with the festive celebration of Jesus’ resurrection when our alleluias ring loud and clear.
Finally, the penitential character of Lent is not its sole purpose. In the ancient Church, the weeks leading up to Easter were a time of intensive preparation of the candidates who were to be baptized at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday. This time in the Church’s calendar was seen as an especially appropriate time for Baptism because of the relationship between Christ’s death and resurrection and our own in Holy Baptism (see Romans 6:1-11). This focus would suggest that the season of Lent serves not only as a time to meditate on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf but also as an opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and what it means to live as a child of God. Source
Lent is observed for 40 days, not including Sundays, which are observed as Feast days. Traditionally, Christians have been known to give up something for Lent, in remembering how much Christ gave up for us by dying on the cross for our sins. Whether that means 40 days without Dr. Pepper, Facebook or saying curse words, it doesn’t matter.
The thing is, the reason that Christ gave up His life up for us on the cross was so we DIDN’T have to give anything up. That’s the beauty of it. My husband always likes to tell his parishioners that, and instead asks them if, instead, they’ll be adding something to their lives during the penitential Lenten season.
I won’t be giving anything up for Lent this year. I will be adding, however, two things:
My Daily Devotions have been severely lacking this year. I would like to pass the blame onto something else….except when I have to admit that I haven’t been doing devotions because of my own laziness. I read before bed, and have been turning off the light and going to sleep instead of doing my devotions. I plan on changing that routine, and doing my devotions BEFORE I get out of bed in the morning, instead of at bedtime. I have a wonderful app that I use for my devotions-PrayNow- and I love it, because it has the day’s readings from the Old Testament and New Testament, the Psalm reading, a hymn, a reading from a church father, and a prayer. It’s super easy to get to since I have it on my iPad and my Kindle.
Mere Christianity is a book I’ve wanted to read for years now. My favorite Lutheran Confessional blogger, Edie, sings the book’s praises, and I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis as well. A couple years ago I participated in a Lenten book group (also led by Edie) and I enjoyed it so much- and it enriched my Lenten journey so much- that I want to do it again with Mere Christianity. 40 days is plenty time to get through a book, and I hope to gain insight into my faith as a Christian by reading it.
If you think about it, 40 days is not a long time. It’s just over a month, to meditate and think about the sacrifice Jesus made for us, granting us Eternal Life. I’d love for you to join me on this journey- let me know in the comments if you’d like to take part in a reading group, or just what your plans are for observing Lent. May this be a blessed season for you!
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