Ash Wednesday begins the Christian season of Lent and it begins forty days (not including the Sundays) before Easter. Sundays are excluded because those are the days we remember Jesus’ resurrection. Every Sunday is a little celebration of Easter and thus a time of joy. The 40 days of Lent are symbolic of Jesus’ time in the wilderness before he began his ministry. During that time, he was tempted; but he stayed true to God. It also represents the 40 years the Israelites spent in exile after the Exodus.
The ashes are from last years Palm Sunday palm branches and are worn as a sign of repentance. People have been wearing ashes since the Old Testament. Today we wear them as a sign that we sin and are in need of repentance and renewal with God and in community.
Lent is a time of Repentance, Renewal and Community. We focus our attention on three practices: Fasting, Almsgiving and Prayer. Fasting is denying ourselves something basic and allows us to remember our dependence on God. Any money saved during fasting is traditionally given to the needy. We give because what is given to us by God is meant for sharing. We pray because we are not self-sufficient and have a need inside ourselves that cannot be filled by ourselves or others. We have a longing and must look to God for renewal.
We do this in community because without a community you cannot be enriched by others or enrich them. It is in community that we continue to develop a relationship with God. Together we fast, give and pray. We do this to experience the love of God. Everyone is invited to join in Repentance, Renewal and Community.