Lent Around the World (4) – Ash Wednesday and Giving Up Something for Lent
Easter (April 8, 2012) is coming very soon. This week March 26- March 31 we will look into different Lenten Practices Around the World. Today we will learn about Ash Wednesday and the practice of “Giving Something Up for Lent“
|Image Source:St. Martin’s Catholic School News
“Remember that thou art dust,
and to dust thou shalt return.”
“Turn away from sin
and be faithful
to the Gospel.”
|Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance and it marks the beginning of Lent. Ashes were used in ancient times, according to the Bible, to express mourning. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent’s way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults. An ancient example of one expressing one’s penitence is found in Job 42:3–6. Job says to God: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. The other eye wandereth of its own accord. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (vv. 5–6, KJV) The prophet Jeremiah, for example, calls for repentance this way: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes” (Jer 6:26). The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God this way: “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Read more on Wikipedia
of Ash Wednesday and Lent, from the history of wearing ashes dating back to the Old Testament, to the practices of Catholics and Christians during Lent.
(from the editors at BustedHalo.com)
“Giving something up”for Lent
For most older Catholics, the first thought that Lent brings to mind is giving something up. In my childhood, the standard was to give up candy, a discipline that found suitable reward in the baskets of sugary treats we received on Easter. Some of us even added to the Easter surplus by saving candy all through Lent, stockpiling what we would have eaten had we not promised to give it up.
Some years ago a friend of mine told me that he had urged his children to move beyond giving up candy to giving up some habit of sin that marked their lives. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. One of his young sons had promised to give up fighting with his brothers and sisters during Lent. When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, “I’m doing pretty good, Dad — but boy, I can’t wait until Easter!”
That response indicates that this boy had only partly understood the purpose of Lenten “giving up.” Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ. For catechumens, Lent is a period intended to bring their initial conversion to completion.
Prayer,Fasting and Almsgiving
The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
If you want to read more on the topic here are a few links:
& Other Spiritual Practices on AMAZON
Poetry and Reflection on Ash Wednesday:
We must go through times in which something in us must die in order for something new to be born. Lent helps us do that. We give up something — not for the sake of the act itself, but for the sake of giving God space to move. Spending 40 days fasting and reflecting can bring a lot of perspective. One writer said it best when she explained that she celebrates Lent as a time of letting go and making room. She says that Lent is about “voluntary simplicity,making space.” She writes:
“People who equate Lenten sacrifice with a New Year’s resolution are missing the richness of the possibility. We have before us a preparation for Life… and an invitation to die to the things that keep us dead in a little further way. We could make this out to be about chocolate. Or we could ask God what things are getting in our way.” (Zihna Edwards)
“Listen to the long stillness:
New life is stirring
New dreams are on the wing
New hopes are being readied:
Humankind is fashioning a new heart
Humankind is forging a new mind
God is at work.
This is the season of Promise.”