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A Lenten Reflection: Ash Wednesday - An Invitation for Renewal.

Updated: Feb 11

Beginning on Ash Wednesday and during the Lenten season, the Church invites us all to ponder Christ's saving work. We are called upon to live out more deeply the reality of our Baptism and to draw rich nourishment from Sacred Scripture. We are also invited to relive with Jesus the forty days in the desert, praying and fasting, in preparation for his public mission. Lent is an invitation for renewal.

At the start of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, we receive a very somber, yet symbolic gesture with the imposition of ashes upon our foreheads. It is at this moment we are encouraged to acknowledge ourselves as sinners and return to God. Initially, we are told that we “are dust and to dust we will return”. This is done to remind us of our own human weaknesses and that ultimately our bodies will degrade and we will die.

Taken from the Book of Genesis (3:19) these words tell us that we are exposed to the world around us, a truly corrupt and imperfect world. The point of this prayer is to lead the supplicant toward a real place of hope and anticipation, beyond the finite existence of humanity and toward the infinite, which rests in God alone.

Secondly, the recipient, who has come to receive the ashes of their own free will, is hopefully moved to “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” These are the words that were pronounced by Jesus at the beginning of his itinerant ministry. It is an invitation for the receiver to become bold and self-assured in their obedience to the gospel message.

Ash Wednesday, in a real sense, is a hopeful moment where Christ, through the Church, invites us to become deeply aware of His redeeming work. From this moment until Easter, we are to be in a more meditative state of mind while we drink up the nourishing Word of God. This awareness culminates with the Risen Christ. Through Him, we become liberated and alive again. The Church urges the people of God to live fully their baptismal promises. During this Lent, our faith is reinforced by the knowledge of our personal relationship with God.

During Lent we join Jesus on the road to Calvary

The forty days of Lent can be a sustaining element for both personal and communal renewal. After all, a Christian’s life is a life of faith nourished by our encounters with the Divine. Our lives, with all its trials and tribulations, can be victorious over evil.

During Lent, we join Jesus on a spiritual journey; following him on the road to Calvary and afterwards through the mystery of the Cross. It is in the Lenten Journey that we involve ourselves in the joy of His Resurrection. In this context, “Involve” is a key word.

Individually and corporately, we are called upon to experience the Lenten Journey. This is done by ‘listening’ to the Word of God, ‘living’ the Word of God, ‘speaking’ the Word of God and ‘being a Witness’ to the Word of God. By doing this we can reject a very toxic world that opens up the door to all sorts of evil, which wants to destroy the Word of God.

During Lent we will be expected to possess a certain amount of endurance. We do this in order to recall the events that marked the life and history of ancient Israel. Because we endure, we are gifted with the story of the events and the meaning behind them.

During lent we learn about ‘the covenant’ established by God with Noah and thus with humanity, and also the forty days that Moses stayed on Mount Sinai, resulting in the gift of the ‘tablets of the law’. Most importantly, the Lenten season is an open invitation for all of us to re-experience Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness through His praying and fasting.

The Church continues to work on its mission of proclaiming the merciful love of Christ for all of humanity. This is especially manifested during lent when we, along with our other Christian brothers and sisters, join in to exercise the austere disciplines of Fasting, Praying and Almsgiving. Like Jesus in the wilderness, we prepare ourselves for a journey.

An Invitation to Live out Lent

Lent is a time for all of us to begin that journey of reflection and prayer. Together we take a spiritual journey to Calvary focusing on the core mysteries of our faith. We do this because we are preparing ourselves for the joyous Easter event. Lent rouses us out of our sleep and allows the Word of God to enter into our lives.

We are indeed gifted with Lent. It is here where we confront the fundamental truth about just who we are, where we come from, and where we are heading. Lent gives us the opportunity to perceive the path our life is taking. Consequently, the Lenten season also shows us how we journey together as a Church.

Our liturgy expresses the seriousness of our celebrations. Our experiences are tactile and visceral. Ascetically the tone is dark. In this way, our eyes are open to our own human frailty and our hearts become bare to the merciful love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, lent brings us closer to God and it allows us to see not only our own weaknesses, but also the emotional and spiritual fragility of our brothers and sisters. As we begin to journey with Christ, we recognize the broken world we live in. Nevertheless, by being open to the world we are able to realise that other people have needs, including those who are troubled or defenseless.

Lent is after all about keeping ourselves and others on that heavenly path. Lent is a time for listening to people based upon the Lord’s love for us. Our attitude must then be bold, compassionate and merciful. Jesus is our model, our template. This love is best reflected in the gospel according to Saint Matthew: “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them". (Matthew 9:36).

During these days of reflection and intense prayer, let us be inspired by the Word of God. Let us be vigilant in our struggle against Sin, knowing that this battle truly never ends. May we recognize that worldly temptation is a daily reality. May we be aware of our own personal failings and created illusions.

Let us never forget the poor, the abandoned, and the marginalized. May we, through our giving, find the time to help others and share with them what we can. Let us live out more deeply the reality of our Baptism and draw rich nourishment from Sacred Scripture. Above all, let us ponder the saving work of Jesus Christ.

So dear Brothers and Sisters, beginning on Ash Wednesday and over the Lenten season may we be purified and renewed through our prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Published on January 15th, 2016 in the Traditional Anglican News Vol. 4 Issue 1 {Revised on February 17th, 2023}

© Dr. Charles Warner 2023

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