Observing Lent — Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, a 40-day period of repentance and reflection that many Christians observe before Easter.

Ash Wednesday


This video is a great “highlights reel” that explains Lent in about 2 minutes:

Ash Wednesday is a solemn holy day in the church calendar, but even as the readings remind us of our sinful nature, they include promises of God’s love and grace. The opening prayer from the Ash Wednesday service in the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer puts it this way:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have created and forgive the sins of all who are penitent.

I think being reminded of God’s forgiveness before we confess our sins reinforces God’s unconditional love for us.

One of the readings usually is Psalm 103, which includes these verses:

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and full of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us,
nor will he keep his anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our sins from us.

To me, this Psalm is a reminder that God sees us apart from our shortcomings and wrong-doings. While we tend to define ourselves by our worst traits, God loves our whole selves.

After the Bible readings, the service continues with an invitation to observe a holy Lent, which begins:

Dear People of God . . .

I just love that phrase–maybe because it connotes a sense of belonging to God.

With the imposition of ashes the priest reminds us:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

While this may strike some as a macabre part of the service, I see it as a needed reminder of my place in God’s creation. So often I get caught up in myself and my own abilities–I think I can do anything, that I have to do everything–that I forget to place my faith and trust in God. It also is a good reminder that our days on this earth are numbered and so we should spend them wisely.

Last year I gave up meat for Lent, but this year I am really going to focus on renewing my efforts at daily prayer and daily devotion time. The website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops posts the full text of has daily readings (usually a selection from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a selection from the New Testament, and a selection from a Gospel) and I will either read and study those or listen to the Daily Prayer podcasts based on the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer.

Are you giving up anything or committing to do anything for Lent?

Do you know of any on-line devotional resources I should check out?

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13 Responses to Observing Lent — Ash Wednesday

  1. I’m taking a break from chocolate. It can be an addiction and I like the time to reset every year! Love your focus on quiet time, too. That’s another goal of mine!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…Running in the 2nd Trimester and WIAWMy Profile

  2. Thank you for that lesson. I enjoy learning about traditions that are not my own and you do a fabulous job of explaining. I like your idea of not giving something up, but dedicating yourself to some positive improvements.
    Carrie@familyfitnessfood.com recently posted…Food solves the problem – WIAWMy Profile

  3. Kim says:

    I’m giving up something for the first time but I think it is something that will really be good for me – no wine or cocktails during Lent for me!
    Kim recently posted…Giving Something UpMy Profile

  4. I am giving up all nut butters since they have been a big addiction lately.
    I already want a scoop.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…Interviews with Running Coach ClientsMy Profile

  5. Tess Moore says:

    Instead of giving something up to remind me what Jesus did for us all I’m going to do one (or more) act of kindness a day (total 40). These acts are going to be quiet and anonymous. Just between Jesus and me! Great post…thanks

    • Coco says:

      That’s great Tess. And your decision to be anonymous fits well with our Ash Wednesday reading from Matthew 6:

      But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

      (Not that this about being rewarded either!)
      Coco recently posted…Three Things Thursday (The Foreign Travel Edition)My Profile

  6. Pam Green says:

    This was actually very helpful, thank you! Can you give up actions? If so, I’d like to give up yelling or raising my voice.

  7. Pingback: Observing Lent -- Reading Scripture - Running With Perseverance

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