LENT (A Season of Renewal)
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
To me, Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent is a personal sojourn where I could spend time for my reflection, my personal discipline and sacrifices, and contemplation on the will of God. Yes, it should be spent in a way so that one can make room for some spiritual growth in their lives. Thus making this season an opportunity for self-examination, indeed, is of paramount importance. Our main goal should be to improve our personal relationship with God. This could be done by a sincere repentance of our sins, a recognition that we are flawed and our willingness to allow God’s grace to work in us with the resolve to change our ways to be better Christians. On Ash Wednesday, ergo, my spiritual journey has begun.
It is so called Ash Wednesday simply because of the traditional imposition of ashes on the forehead reminding us of our mortality. It is a recognition that God did not intend for us to stay here on earth for all eternity. We have a beginning and precisely our existence here on earth will come to an end. We are all gonna die! Memento mori (Remember, that you have to die.) Mindful of this truth could lead to a reality that we should not be short-sighted. There are so many temptations for a man to give more weight on the matters here on earth that matters in heaven; on things that are passing rather than things that are eternal. Thus Genesis 3: 19 reminds us, “Remember, man, you are dust and unto dust, you shall return.” We do not settle for less. We should aim for something great.
Where did those Ashes come from? The ashes are usually the burnt Palm leaves which were used and blessed during the previous celebration of Palm Sunday. In our case, every year we ask our parishioners to collect those dried palm leaves they took home from last year.
The imposition of Ashes on our forehead is highly symbolical. It is not only a reminder of our mortality but it is also a sign of our humility.
The word Lent comes from the Old English word “Lencten” which means “Springtime.” or “Lengthen” which has something to do with the changing of the season in which the days are getting longer. Spring gives us an imagery of new life, a new beginning, and growth hence Lenten season gives us the same idea, it’s about making a fresh start and or renewal.
Lent is considered a forty-day observance regardless of the fact that the whole Lenten season is more than forty days (46 days). It is because we do not count Sundays during the Lenten season.
Biblically, the number forty has its own significance. Like, during the time of Noah, there was a great flood. It rained for forty days and nights (Gen. 7:4)
The Israelites wandered in the desert and ate Manna for forty years.
In Exodus 24:18, We saw Moses in communion with God in a mountain for forty days and nights.
And in the NT, Jesus spent forty days and nights praying and fasting.
On Ash Wednesday, we create a spirit of repentance and penance. We observe on this day Fasting and Abstinence. This is a one day, besides Good Friday when we strictly observe Fasting and Abstinence. The Law of Fasting binds those who are 18 years of age until 59. The Law of Abstinence binds those who are 14 years old and older. A sincere observance makes a good preparation for Easter.
An observance of spiritual sacrifices like Fasting and Abstinence is not meant to show off and to brag about it. It is most pleasing to the Lord when it is done with sincerity and humility.
We, therefore, ask God for a sincere and contrite heart. So that in our journey through life we can always create a pure and clean heart