The dust of Ash Wednesday reminds us that life is more significant than our individual experiences and that we are not in control. The practice of Ash Wednesday is symbolic in communicating grief and sorrow over sins and repentance through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, recognizing our frailty as humans, and marking the beginning of the Lenten season. Lenten practices of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are relevant today and perhaps more needed than ever. God is ready to heal us and make us more whole than ever before. Ash Wednesday is our call to make room for the divine to work its sacred power in each of us during the 40 days to Easter, providing a time to reflect on sinful humanity and Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Our belief in Jesus will help us to be raised in glory.
Giving Up: Fasting, a spiritual practice that has declined in popularity over the years has made a comeback in a less-than-spiritual way. “Intermittent fasting” is all the rage lately on nutrition and in best-selling books. But when fasting is understood not as a weight-loss technique but as a way of letting go of our reliance on things we don’t actually need, it can be a powerful form of prayer. It’s okay to give up desserts for Lent if that helps us reflect on the things we can do without. Fasting is a way to experience our own “lacking” in a transformative way.
Giving To: Almsgiving, which means giving money or food to those in need, is another traditional Lenten practice. Giving is relevant during Lent and all year long because it is how we recognize that we aren’t the only ones vulnerable. The world is full of others just like us in our lacking. They may be vulnerable in different ways than we are, but we bear witness to them in their need, with witness to their pain. By standing in solidarity with the emotional pain that hinders them from living a better or healthy life each day, we take steps toward healing our own afflictions.
Giving In: Prayer as a spiritual practice always stays in style. Prayer is a powerful way of participating in the religious community during Lent and throughout the year. By lifting ourselves and others in prayer, we attest to the vulnerable parts of our lives. In addition, prayer connects us with each other and with God.
Invitation Of Prayer As We Step Into Lent
Merciful God, you called us forth from the dust of the earth; you claimed us for Christ in the waters of baptism. Look upon us as we enter these forty days bearing the mark of ashes, and bless the journey through the desert of Lent to the font of rebirth. As we remember our mortality and seek penitence today, we know you to be a God who is rich in forgiveness and abounding in steadfast love, love that culminates in eternal life with you. Guide our steps this Lent so that we might find greater fulfillment in our promises and better serve others with a heart that’s reflective of you. Amen.