“From dust you have come and to dust you shall return”
Every year many Christian churches begin a season called Lent. It is a 40 day (minus Sundays) journey to Easter. It all begins on Ash Wednesday, for those unfamiliar with the idea of Lent; it begins the day after Mardi Gras. For the whole purpose of Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday is to indulge in foods and activities that many then refrain from during Lent.
But what’s it all about? There was a time between the 4th and 15th centuries where communion became so hard to receive and people felt so unworthy of it, that it was mandated that a person receive communion once a year. Many times this took place prior to Easter where people would come and make confession and receive entrance to the table. They would have this season to meet with a priest, give their confession and do the required penitence before coming to the table.
The church has in some since evolved from that practice. So Lent has been transformed into a time to reflect, a time to look inward and seek the person God is calling you to be. To seek out the person that God sees when God looks at us. Whether that be through changing practices or eating habits people have come to the idea that Lent is giving things up.
Many people will fast from chocolate or ice cream during lent, perhaps not watch TV or be on the internet. But the question is, why? How does giving up those things help deepen your faith? For that is what Lent is about, seeking out ourselves and drawing closer to God. The journey begins on Ash Wednesday when we hear the words, "From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return." What do these words mean, why do we use these ashes, what is the purpose?
Many churches that participate in Lent save the palm branches from Palm Sunday and burn them to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday to show the full circle of life and death. For in the placing of ashes we are directly brought into reflecting on our own mortality, or own limitations. When we can face the idea of our own death we can see our lives differently. We can see those things in our lives that we don’t like, that we want to change or those things about ourselves that we are not proud of.
And that is the purpose of Lent, to face those things and seek to change, to draw closer to God. So when deciding this year what to give up for Lent, change the question. Instead ask, how can this Lenten season change me? Is there a habit I need to break so I can draw closer to God? Is there a quality within myself that is not pleasing to God, perhaps work on that? Lent is a time, a season to face the end of days, and from there transform our present so that we can live into the future drawing even closer to the God who loves us.