Ash Wednesday, February 18, is the beginning of the 40-day season of Lent. Lent is an important season for many Christians because it prepares them for the Celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday. Some Christians and others, however, may not be very familiar with Lent. To see Ash Wednesday on the calendar or to hear the word Lent might raise the question, "What is Lent?"
Recently, a Lutheran publishing company called Concordia Publishing House, in an effort to promote some YouTube videos about Lent, ran a very short and yet informative article about Lent. Here’s a synopsis:
- The 40-day Lenten season is to prepare for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord on Easter Sunday. During this time, we focus on our need to repent of our sins and how our Savior makes salvation possible.
- Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, which comes from the ancient custom of imposing ashes, traditionally made from palm branches left from the previous Palm Sunday, on the worshippers.
- During this season, worship services are more solemn, and many churches add special midweek services. During Lent we do not normally use "Alleluia," a word to express joy and delight.
- Churches are decorated in violet, the color of royalty and repentance.
- Some people may "give up something for Lent." Similar to fasting, the person gives up something they enjoy as a reminder to pray and reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
As you can see, the real purpose of Lent is not to focus on ourselves and what we are doing, but to focus on what God has done for us in Christ. That's where and when we truly repent of our sins and grow in our love for the God who first loved us and gave his Son for us.
These two hymn verses, from “Jesus I Will Ponder Now” and “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” prayerfully express this so well:
“Jesus I Will Ponder Now”
Jesus I will ponder now
On your holy passion;
With your Spirit my endow
For such meditation.
Grant that I in love and faith
May the image cherish
Of your Suffering, pain and death
That I may not perish.
“O Sacred Head Now Wounded”
O sacred Head now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.