Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. If you didn’t grow up with Lent (and I know many of you didn’t, myself included), here’s a bit of background. The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word for “springtime.” It refers to the length of time before Easter, traditionally forty days, when the Church prepares to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Just as Advent helps us prepare spiritually for Christmas, Lent helps us prepare spiritually for Holy Week and Easter.
You may be asking, Do I have to observe Lent? The first answer is, Of course not. But the second answer is, Why wouldn’t you? This season is a gift to us wherein we may pause and reflect on our lives in light of Jesus Christ. So, I encourage you to observe it this year. Typically folks use this time as a chance to give something up: certain foods, certain media, certain habits. In recent years it’s become popular to take something on: daily prayer, for instance, or journaling and letter-writing. Regardless, the goal isn’t self-promotion (pride) but self-effacement (humility). What will help you humble yourself over the next forty days, so that you can see Jesus more clearly? Whatever the answer is, do it.
Much more can be said — but for now I’ll leave you with the sage words of St. Ambrose of Milan. Let’s pray this together, and mean it:
O Lord, who has mercy upon all:
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore You,
a heart to delight in You,
to follow and enjoy You, for Christ's sake,
Image credit: Agnolo Gaddi, “Crucifixion”