Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Journal photo / Andrew Dickerman

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. (It is earlier this year, as it begins 40 days before Easter, and Easter is early this year.) The priest dips his thumb into the ashes (made from last year's burned palm fronds), and marks the foreheads of the people with the sign of the cross. He repeats the phrase: "Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." (Or something similar.) It is a reminder that without God, we are nothing. (See this link for more information.)

As I sat in Mass this morning, pondering the whole idea of what is ahead in Lent and what that means, this thought came to me: Lent is not so much about "giving up" as it is about "giving in". What do I mean by that? It is not to be focused on what we sacrifice as much as it is to be about submitting ourselves to God in deeper ways. It is about focusing on His sacrifice at the cross, and "giving in" to what that means in our individual lives.

It is a time of giving alms:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly." (Matthew 6:1-4*)

It is a time of prayer:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:5-6*)

It is a time of fasting:

“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:16-18*)

As the often-used phrase says, "Let go, and let God!"


*all Scripture quotes from the New King James Version

.
Post a Comment