This week sees the beginning of Lent, our special time of intense prayer and deep listening to the Word of God.
While we now associate Lent with Easter, its origins are a little different.
In the early days of the Church, when almost all baptisms were adult, catechumens (those preparing for imminent baptism) were anointed forty days before baptism and spent the next forty days in intense prayer, fasting from things that were not necessary and separating themselves from anything contrary to the Christian life. This became so powerful an experience for many that whole communities decided to join in this quest for authentic Christian life and it became a yearly practice.
Prayer becomes a deep listening to the Word of God; fasting becomes a discipline that allows for solidarity with those who have not enough to eat or who cannot eat because of illness; almsgiving allows for a tenderness of the heart to take effect in acts of genuine kindness.
We are about to begin our Lenten journey, allowing ourselves the chance to dare again to say to one another and to the world that we are seeking God and seeking ways to live faith authentically. In the midst of commercialism and consumerism, partisanship and trends, we dare to cry “Stop!” and we look for something simple, deep and fresh that reminds us that we are children of a God who loves us and calls us to life.
Ash Wednesday begins our Lenten journey. Two things are specific to this day:
- Fast and Abstinence, which means we do not eat meat and those who are aged between twelve and sixty are called to limit food to two small meals and one main meal. This allows us to discipline ourselves in what we eat and how we treat the gift of food.
- Ashes mark our forehead, in a gesture of beginning with what has been described as “ the deadest of all dead things.” These ashes come from last year’s palm branches. They have served their last purposes. In the Gospel, the tree of the Cross is a sign of both death and life. It begins with the poignancy of death and moves to a new appreciation of the gift of life. In these days, we choose to leave aside that which leads to death and hurt and to choose again the path that leads from death to Life.
Enjoy the freshness of this spectacular spring! Let a real sense of joy in simplicity and new life be part of your
Lenten journey. Move from death to life in these forty days!