Days of Preparation
[[My Ash Wednesday column for the Samford Crimson.]]
Lent begins today. Traditionally, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a penitential period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) until Easter. A priest or minister applies ashes to a person’s forehead to express sorrow and repentance for one’s own faults and sins. We usually treat Lent as a very somber time, particularly in more liturgical Christian traditions, where you cannot even say “Alleluia” until it is over.
Lent should not be so grave and foreboding. Lent is a season to orient our whole selves toward God. Lent is about reenergizing and reordering our days. It is a time to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Yes, every day should be this way in such a life, but the next six weeks are a time designated for special preparation.
Lent is a time to do justice before God. Spend some time in reflection and prayer. I do not just mean prayer with words, especially not just prescribed prayer—the prayers you are supposed to pray, scripted or not. Listening and looking for God in your daily life is an act of prayer. (How else can you pray without ceasing?) St. Ignatius of Loyola often practiced a daily examination in which he reflected upon where he had (and had not) seen God in his day. He also considered the reasons for these (dis)appearances of the Divine. In your seeking, spend some time prioritizing silence over noise.
Lent is also a time of doing justice on your own. For example, many fast during Lent, particularly on Ash Wednesday. Others give up a certain hobby or type of consumption for these 40 days. If you fast, though, do not fast just for fasting’s sake. Perhaps you could fast as a learning experience or an empathetic exercise. Survive on $2 per day, like most of the world, or see what it is like to live on a food-stamp budget. It might give you some perspective. Alternatively, fast something to which you cling too tightly, whether that be as simple as television, or more involved, like the things you purchase week in and out.
Lent is a time of doing justice with, to and for others, too. Almsgiving is a part of that. However, do not just give money to people. Give some time, as well. Go spend time serving and, more importantly, learning from and listening to the disadvantaged, the poor, the neglected or even friends and family. Approach such generosity with an attitude of humility and open curiosity. Seek to give and to learn.
Lent is a season of faith. It demands the exercise of the whole self, the total personality. These six weeks, like Jesus’ time in the wilderness, should always prepare us for the other 46.
Posted on 13 February 2013, in Devotional and tagged Ash Wednesday, Christian Traditions, doing justice, Fasting, Justice, Lent, Preparation, Religion, Samford Crimson, Spiritual Discipline, Spirituality, st ignatius of loyola. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.