Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and the start of the Lenten Season. As we all know, this is a day of fasting, abstinence, and contemplation. With the ashes of last year's palms, we remember our bodies' mortality and our souls' penitence in Christ's memory. When we are told to remember that “Man is dust, and to dust you shall return”, we are reminded of our dependence upon God for our souls' eternal life in Heaven, and the fallibility of our Free Will.
While we are no longer publicly and symbolically cast out from the church on Ash Wednesday, evocative of Adam's casting out from Eden, the ashes are still marks of our sin, and our resolve to purify our souls through penance and God's grace. The tradition of giving up luxury for the forty days of Lent similarly stems from the old habit of mandatory Confession on Shrove Tuesday, when the Faithful would be given their penances for the coming season before Easter.
While some of these traditions have changed over the centuries, the core activity of giving up a luxury for the forty days of Lent remains, and its importance is significant. In our society now, with the proliferation of ever-more-accessible luxuries and technology, it is important to take a step back, to remain grounded in our faith, and contemplate from where Salvation comes. The Lenten Season is the perfect time for this, as we consider the sacrifices Christ made for us, both during his time in the desert, being tempted by Satan, and throughout his life up to the ultimate sacrifice made on the Cross.
With the absence of certain things that we will be giving up during Lent, we are afforded more time and a clearer sight through prayer and contemplation of God's will in our lives. We should be relishing this liturgical season, preparing ourselves to become closer to God and live more fully in His grace.
Now in print to help you with your Lenten journey, Time for Renewal by Mother Mary Francis.
Mother Mary Francis, abbess of a Poor Clare Monastery for over forty years, left an enduring legacy in her writings and in the conferences she gave to her spiritual daughters. In this work she presents beautiful meditations on the liturgical season of Lent, revealing the treasures of the liturgy to Christians in all walks of life. Her insight into Holy Scripture and her poet's heart engendered reflections that illuminate the daily Mass readings in a fresh and attractive way.
These meditations enlighten the reader to see conversion as positive and enriching, and help us to understand that the generous embrace of Lenten penance has a purpose and brings a wondrous reward: deeper union with God. She was a true daughter of Saint Francis of Assisi, who found perfect joy by turning away from self to God.