Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday and the Beginning of Lent

Yesterday the girls and I made a run to the library to look for books on Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent. The pickings were slim. But, I did find this lovely book that I am now in the middle of reading through. It is titled: "The Meaning and Message of Lent: How an Understanding of Lent Can Deepen the Life of the Church and of the Individual Christian." The Author is Eugene R. Fairweather, and this a 1st edition copy published in 1962. I am enjoying this read so far because I am learning a lot about the history behind this religious custom, how it came to be, and why believers should still practice it today. Most importantly I have discovered that the observance of Lent through fasting or self denial is not only for Catholics as I had originally believed. As I delve deeper into this book I am inspired more and more to observe Lent in my family. Below I will quote just a few things that I have found interesting in my reading so far.

                                                    " Give us the self-control that springs
                                                     From discipline of outward things,
                                                      That fasting inward secretly
                                                     The soul may purely dwell with thee."
                                                                         -Attributed to Gregory the Great
  • (pg 10) "The Lenten observance is linked to the solemn and joyful proclamation of the very heart of the Gospel in the Easter festival. The supreme fact of Christianity, to which Easter testifies, is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Lent is designed to help Christians grow closer to that fact."
  • (pg. 11) "The cornerstone of Lent is the climactic truth of the Gospel, the good news of the divine victory in the dying and the rising again of Jesus Christ. Lent exists to make this story more real to our minds and hearts and more powerful in our lives."
  • (pg.117) " the Roman liturgy the symbolic imposition of ashes on "Ash Wednesday," which had originated as part of the symbolic "expulsion" of the penitents as the outset of their Lenten discipline, became a solemn consecration of the whole community at the beginning of the Lenten fast.
  • (pg. 119) "Lent is still the time when Christians as a body renew their baptismal union with the crucified and risen Christ. Lent is still the time when we learn to die more completely to sin so that we may live more completely for God."
  • (pg. 123) "Christian fasting obviously has a solid basis in the biblical teaching about God and his creatures. As we might expect, it also has deep roots in the biblical history. The supreme example, of course, was provided by Jesus Christ himself in the long fast that followed his baptism by John in the Jordan. We are told:"
           - The spirit immediately drove him out into the desert. And he remained in the desert for forty days,    and Satan tried to tempt him there; and he was among the wild animals; but the angels waited on him. Mark 1:12-13
  • (pg. 120. This has been ascribed to St. Gregory the Great)
"The glory of these forty days
We celebrate with songs of praise;
For Christ, by whom all things were made
Himself has fasted and has prayed.

Alone and fasting Moses saw
The loving God who gave the law;
And to Elijah, fasting, came
The steeds and chariots of flame.

So Daniel trained his mystic sight,
Delivered from the lion's might;
And John, the Bridegroom's friend, became
The herald of Messiah's name.

Then grant us, Lord, like them to be
Full oft in fast and prayer with thee;
Our spirits strengthen with thy grace,
And give us joy to see thy face."

-Ascribed to St. Gregory the Great

Well, I hope that this information might inspire you to do a little more reading on this topic for yourself. Or, maybe even to contemplate adopting the practice of Lent in your own life. Autumn and Alaina and I decided that we would each refrain from certain foods or practices for the next 40 days, and we are very excited that we are taking this new step in our walk with Christ.

Continue to be Curious, 

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