Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday - Season of Lent Begins...

Ash Wednesday - the Church Season of Lent

Rules or No Rules? - A Discipline, or Not?

Today, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of the church season of Lent.
Things did not go well for Jesus as he began to teach. People began to feel threatened. He challenged their way of thinking and doing and they killed him on a cross. This is a reality in our world. We, too, suffer and die, in many areas of life. The marvel of the Faith is that God makes that journey with us as well. Our seasonal observance of this reality is called Lent. It begins with the ashes of Ash Wednesday at the dark end of winter.

The word Lent means, literally, springtime, or lengthening - since the day-time hours of spring bring longer light into the world - wow! pretty cool when you consider that Jesus is often referred to as The Light! It is a time of recognizing our need for God to understand what we face in this life and accompany us along the way. Its highest message is that God is so willing, and that in the depths of our pain, we can be related to our God, who also knows pain and tears and death.

Lent is 40 days long (not counting Sundays, which are feast days) reflecting the 40 days of rain for Noah, the 40 years of schooling of the people, Israel, in the Exodus, and the 40 days of testing of Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism in the Jordan River. Liturgies during Lent are subdued, introspective, and penitential in nature, often beginning in silence and with the general confession of the people. The color used is deep purple, signifying penitence and the mood of Lent.

At the end of Lent is the one week called Passion tide, or Holy Week. It begins on Passion Sunday, also called Palm Sunday, and ends at the first Alleluia of Easter in the midst of the Great Vigil (Easter celebration) on Saturday night.

Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday, the week before Easter) begins with the triumphal procession commemorating Jesus entering the Holy City on a donkey. Participants experience in the liturgy service, a stark change in the middle of things that we remember had happened in the life of Jesus. What had been falsely understood as Jesus joining the crowd becomes the confrontation of Jesus with the failures of society and the crowd as well. The day turns decidedly dark and we read dramatically of Jesus being sought for arrest by the threatened authorities. The color for this Sunday is the red of martyrs, the color of blood.

The symbolism of the Christian year, and remembrances in our worship and events are actually very interesting, and help us understand why we, as Christians, do what we do.

As in all things, we are given a choice, not forced into our decisions ... God does call us to draw near to Him ... and God promises that God will also draw near to US too! One reason, of many, to continue in this journey with Christ and each other.

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