We are at that time of year again when the Lenten season begins. The observance of lent is a tradition in many denominations and lately there has been a lot of interest in it especially among young people.
The word Lent is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Lencten’, which simply means “spring.” The Eastern Orthodox tradition calls the period the ‘Great Fast’ or ‘Great 40 days’. The practice of the Church in observing this period of 40 days is very old and dates to the ancient Church.
Lent is observed over a period of 46 days (excluding 6 Sundays, which adds up to a 40-day fast), beginning on Ash Wednesday.
Jesus set the pattern for Lent during his 40 days in the wilderness as he fasted for 40 days and nights. It was a time of solitude and prayer and a preparation for His public ministry.
In the same way, His followers today fast and pray for 40 days to radically align themselves to God and His purposes. It is a season of preparing ourselves for the forthcoming celebration of our Saviour’s resurrection and to minister in His name for the rest of the year.
In Colossians 4:2, the Apostle Paul gives this exhortation: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.” The season of Lent can be a good time for reflection and intentionally deepening our walk with God.
While arguments can be given in favour or against observing Lent, there is no denying that repentance and renewal is something that all of us need. Periods for intentional spiritual introspection and contemplation are vital for spiritual well-being and for a closer walk with God.
Today is the first day of the Lenten season and is popularly known as Ash Wednesday. Observed by many Christians around the world where the faithful apply ash on their foreheads as a symbolic reminder that humankind is dust and to dust shall we return. (Ecclesiastes 3:20, Genesis 3:19)
Ash Wednesday does give us a perspective on our lives, and we start to see the world around us in the light of eternity. One must never forget his or her own fragility, (Psalm 103:14) which in turn always helps to bring to our notice the only sure foundation, the only true shelter, the only solid rock, the only eternal. God!
The ashes that the faithful smear on their foreheads usually come from the palm leaves that were preserved from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The Bible is rich in imagery and often associates ashes with mourning and lament. Job for example, covered himself in ashes. Ash Wednesday is a time to reflect and realize not only our mortality but also our need for a Saviour. But more than that it is a journey that will end in resurrection and the joy of Easter Sunday. While Ash Wednesday and Lent may be a time to mourn what was in the past, the end of the season is all about hope for the future.
Rev. Vijayesh Lal