“They would have repented .. in sackcloth and ashes.”
In the West Lent starts on Ash Wednesday which this year falls today 1 March.
Good Friday is on 14 April and Easter Sunday on 16 April.
The ‘40 days’ of Lent are associated with the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the desert. The 6 Sundays are excluded in the calculation as they are said to represent either the day of rest or the day of Jesus victory over death.
In many churches there will be special services on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the Journey to Easter. The theme is Penitence. Ashes will be blessed and used as a symbol of repentance. Many people will go forward to be marked with the sign of the cross, in ashes, on their forehead. These ashes are normally prepared from the Palm Crosses used on Palm Sunday the previous year. As they receive the cross of ashes they are exhorted to
“Turn away from sin and believe the good news.”
Lent is very important. In its steady and purposeful build-up to Good Friday and Easter it ensures that they do not arrive and pass almost without notice. Here is the opportunity to reflect on ourselves and the world around us – to see the worldliness and sin that contaminates, separates and brutalises and which prevents us from living to the potential of the daughters and sons of God. Repentance is importance for us and our world for it recognises that we need help – we need saving from ourselves, from each other and from the consequences of our actions. For unless we recognise sin we don’t recognise the need for a Saviour or understand what it is that He is about.
In many ways what is known as the Lent fast has been trivialised The true significance of Lent is not what we give up, even for God, but the awesome sacrifice that Christ made for us, and the self –denial and suffering that was involved. Any sacrifice of ours should be a reminder of, and association with, that greater sacrifice, and not a source of personal satisfaction. Scripturally our sacrifice is between God and ourselves and should be kept private.
For as much as we recognise the darkness of sin Lent can also become a wonderful opportunity. For we must reflect also on the holiness and love of God, the enormous blessing of knowing Him – and the great need for Him in our lives and the life of the world in which we live today.
This year you might also like to think of doing a special act of kindness for someone every day – especially for someone with a need. It is also an opportunity for special prayers for the trouble spots of the world, for those suffering and for Christians being persecuted because of their faith.
Father – please help me to accept this opportunity to journey with You every day, and in so doing to draw closer to You. Please shine Your light into my places of darkness and let me know the wonder of Your healing love. Amen.