For much of the Christian community, the forty days begins with Ash Wednesday (though the Eastern Orthodox church counts forty days back from Palm Sunday) and continues through the Holy Week stories of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Sundays are not included in the forty days since they are always, even in the season of Lent, a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.
The image of Ash Wednesday, ashes marked in the sign of the cross on our foreheads, invites us into the season with the proper attitude – humility. The ashes recall God’s words to Adam following his transgression of the boundary around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
For all our railing against it, our mortality is uncovered once again. We cannot deny. We are dependent on the God who breathed life into the dust of the earth and created humanity. We are not the masters of our universe. We have and will continue to fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In humility we are marked with the cross — the symbol of violent death and the gateway to victorious life, and humbly say to God, “In life and death, we are yours.”
In that way, the season of Lent mirrors our lives in Christ. Confronted by our humanity, our imperfections, and our brokenness, we cast our gaze on the one who took on our humanity, loved us even with our imperfections, and longs for us to be whole. A curious thing happens when we honestly look within, release control, and confess our dependence. Instead of losing power, we open ourselves to new strength. We empty ourselves of self-delusion and self-satisfaction, and we are filled with new identity, our identity in Christ, and the journey of Lent commences.
Maybe we need to consider Lent as one of those seasons of intentionally pressing in. Culturally, we are distracted by many things. If we do not pay attention to our souls, our capacity to be open to God’s creative work in our lives is diminished. The season of Lent presents an opportunity to reflect on the state of our souls before God, the contour of our lives with others, and, above all, the prevailing promise of Jesus’ resurrected life as it breathes new life, new courage, new hope in us and through us, for the sake of the world.
It is no coincidence that the Anglo-Saxon root word for Lent means “spring.” Pressing in to the season of Lent is a creative exercise in God’s possibility of re-birth for you, for the neighbor, for the whole of creation.
*This is an excerpt from an e-article titled “Why Lent?” by Kai Nilsen. The article in it’s entirely can be found at: http://blog.renovare.org/2013/01/30/why-lent/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-lent
How might you enter into this season more fully?
Tomorrow: Resources for Lent