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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ash Wednesday & Lent

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of penitence and preparation for 40 days (not counting Sundays, which are always feast days) before Easter. Just as one cleans house before a big dinner party, so the Church intentionally takes time before the great feast of Easter to reflect upon where our lives have gone astray from God's hope for us. Our model is Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism, time he spent in prayer, fasting, and denial of the world's temptations.

At the Ash Wednesday service, the priest marks each person's forehead with ashes in the sign of the cross. Ashes, an ancient symbol of mourning and repentance, remind us of our own mortality and our falling short of God's call to us. As for whether to leave the ashes on your forehead after the service, as you go about your day...there's no right answer; you may do as you wish!

In our worship, the season of Lent is notable for its more solemn and somber attitude. Our music is less ebullient, we don't have flowers in the sanctuary, and we "put away" the use of "Alleluia" until our Easter celebration. The liturgical colors of Lent are purple, for penitence, or an unbleached linen and dark red known as Lenten array, based on sackcloth as a symbol of mourning.

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