Ash Wednesday and Lent

Sign of the cross on a woman's forehead.

Ash Wednesday is next Wednesday, 2nd March. The Church of England describes Ash Wednesday and Lent like this:

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the observation of Lent, a season of self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study, and preparation for Easter. Lent is often described as lasting forty days (excluding Sundays) which recalls the Biblical account of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4.1-13).

Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence. From the Middle Ages onward it has been a custom to begin Lent by having the sign of the cross marked on one’s forehead in ash. Lent is a time of preparation, particularly for those who are to be baptized at Easter, but the whole Christian community is encouraged to join them in study and self-reflection.

As Holy Week approaches, the atmosphere of the season darkens. Bible readings begin to anticipate the story of Christ’s suffering and death. Holy Week begins with the re-enactment of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This is the beginning of a journey of the imagination which takes us to the Upper Room for the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, through Jesus’ betrayal, trial and crucifixion on Good Friday. 

In the Vigil on the night before, or early on Easter Day, the Church gathers to commemorate the mighty works of God through reading of scripture in preparation for the proclaiming of Christ’s resurrection.

During Lent you might like to give something up. This can be a way of reminding yourself that it is Lent. When I’ve given up Chocolate for instance I’ve found that every time I think about buying a bar of chocolate it reminds me that it’s Lent and of my commitment to Christ. A bonus can be giving up something that isn’t good for us! The sorts of things that people give up are chocolate, alcohol, crisps, sugary stuff (puddings and sweet biscuits). You can give up something like TV as well. But don’t be too ambitious. Keep it to something that is achieveable.

During Lent, you might like to read a christian book as well. At Church we have a selection of books that you can borrow. Have a look.

Also during Lent we have a Lent study group. We are meeting on Tuesday evenings at 7pm at Church and will also make it available online. We will be looking at the metaphor of the Christian community in 1 Peter 2 as living stones, which is rich and evocative. We, the Church, are the living stones, and we are called to bring living hope in our diverse situations, though faith in the one who is the cornerstone of our faith, Jesus Christ. In each context this will be lived out differently, and will be underpinned by a range of theologies, yet our bedrock in Christ remains our constant. ‘Living Stones, Living Hope’ explores this from the perspective of five partner churches around the world, inviting us to reflect on our own experience of being ‘living stones’ bringing ‘living hope’ in our own situations, in the light of the experiences of others. A discussion group held in church in a friendly atmosphere and open to all.

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