Lent Begins with the Cross of Ash Wednesday

From the season of Advent in December, a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus, Christians now prepare for one of the most important spiritual days on the liturgical calendar. Easter may arrive with great excitement of colored eggs, candy, and new clothing; however, the message is found in the symbolism of the cross.  A stirring sacrifice allows followers to widen their hearts in search of spiritual clarity.

The Beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday

Time is needed to prepare for the arrival of Easter Sunday.  Counting back 46 days, including Sundays, marks a Wednesday, March 6th, and the first day of this holy season. Typically observed by Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and some Baptists, Ash Wednesday is symbolic to prepare the mind for reflection in connection to Jesus’ final days.  A shock from color, floral arrangements, and high spirits, observers arriving in a church service will find the altar draped in black cloth and a stillness in the air.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” explains the purpose as dust created man and woman in the beginning. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, our dust transcends life to be with Him.  Observers discover on this first day of sacrifice, death, and ashes, a meaningful way to encounter salvation.  By examining the self, participants find a connection to the grace and mercy of God’s love.

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” Genesis 2:7

Observes of Ash Wednesday receive ashes on their forehead in the sign of a cross and the words, “Thou art dust, and to dust thou shall return.”  The acknowledgment of the rubbing is an experience of God’s presence in our lives.

A Season of Sacrifice

The question, “What are you going to give up or sacrifice?” often arises among Christians during the season of Lent.  While the commitment to relinquish a life-changing or difficult habit such as smoking or drinking coffee or a specific type of food or drink has its appeal, change does not have to be creative. Find something that works for you, and whatever it is, may it help you to turn toward God.

The following ideas may assist in finding a solution to commit to a discipline.

  1. Relinquishing impersonal relationships through text messaging, and promise to connect in person with friends. Consider scheduling a walk or lunch and discard the idea of being too busy.
  2. Surrender to buying any item except the essentials, such as food and medicine.Plan to give away something each day whether it is time for a cause or of monetary value.  Giving away could well be defined as eliminating the clutter in your life.

One challenge, found online and adopted by various church groups, offers the suggestion to declutter 40 items or bags from your life during Lent.  A printable list, divided into small categories and rooms, is available to simplify the effort.

  1. Claim a change from gossip, sarcasm, negative thoughts, and words by writing an affirmation when the mind slips back into old habits.
  2. Refocusing your mind in a cleansing manner such as walking away from technology and negativity, avoiding sugar, and building positive and healthy relationships
  3. Openly share your faith, and speak out how the season of lent has impacted your life.
  4. Define charity and what it means to you; perhaps, it is helping others through prayer, words or counsel, or deeds. Contact your local food bank, homeless shelter, title one school, inner city church to find out how you can make a difference to others.

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, the arrival of the Lenten season shows us the need to stop, listen, and bring our heart and mind closer to Jesus.  Make a promise this year to set aside time to spiritually prepare and understand the love and mercy bestowed to you.


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