So I grew up in a church that didn’t recognize Ash Wednesday or Lent-they didn’t speak ill of either idea, but when other friends would talk about what they were sacrificing during Lent I never quite understood. Why give up chocolate for 40 days if the Bible doesn’t specifically say to? Well, this year I felt a funny calling to teach myself and the students about the tradition of Ash Wednesday and Lent-I really feel that the Lord has begun to open my eyes to some good traditions in the church that I have wanted to label "ritualistic" in the past.
He’s showing me that we can gain a deeper understanding of His love and sacrifice through tradition. Anything can become a ritual with little spiritual meaning if we allow it to, so I decided that this year Ash Wednesday could be an eye opening day of worship and self-examination.
One of the text’s I can across put it really beautifully-that we begin to see God’s amazing love for us and His enormous sacrifice on the cross when we set aside ourselves and instead look into His beautiful face-then we can get a glimpse of His unfailing love for us. I also came across little tidbits that I had no clue about-like the ashes used to make the cross on the foreheads of believers come from the palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday-who would’ve known? I was also directed towards passage after passage that speak to God’s marking on the foreheads of believers-alot of them in Revelation. Since I don’t spend a ton of time hanging out in that book I never knew how many references there were to God’s markings on us! So Wednesday I shared all my new knowledge with the students, somewhat expecting them to be disinterested in what appears to be only a day for the catholic faith. Boy was I wrong! The students were intrigued by all the nuances that make up Ash Wednesday, and challenged to think about what in their lives they put before their faith.
I gave them the option to give that up for Lent. Just even being aware of those things is helpful, but to sacrifice for their faith takes it to a new level. We worshiped God for all that He is, blessed our ashes, and then marked everyone’s forehead that wanted to be marked and prayed for our evening. What a blessing to devote an evening to learning about a tradition that had confused many of us our entire lives, and most of all, to use that evening to glorify our God!!!!!