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Ash Wednesday Video Worship
The beginning of Lent brings a new invitation—an invitation into a deeper life of faith, an invitation to renewed spirituality, and an invitation into deeper awareness of God and self. On Ash Wednesday, we begin Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays). During Lent, we enter into a season of preparation, self-reflection, and repentance when we seek to literally “turn around” and realign our lives and focus toward God. It is a time to give up things as well as take on new life-giving practices, helping us rid ourselves of distractions and our desires.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF LENT
The early Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and early on it became the custom to prepare for the Easter mystery by keeping a short period of fasting and vigil beforehand. At the same time, it became the custom for converts to the faith to undergo a period of more intense preparation and training before receiving Holy Baptism at Easter.
This period of preparation was later extended to a forty-day season of fasting and prayer, modeled after Christ’s forty-day fast in the wilderness.
By the time of St. Augustine in the fifth century, the church in general, and not just those preparing for baptism, began to keep the forty-day season of fasting and prayer to prepare themselves to celebrate Easter. In the early Middle Ages, Lent also became a time when persons who had committed serious sins and had separated themselves from the community of faith were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness and restored to full participation in the life of the Church. They began their period of penitence by being marked with ashes on the first day of Lent. The use of ashes to signify repentance is deeply rooted in scripture. (Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3, Jonah 3:6, and Matthew 11:21)
In the later Middle Ages, the church began to require all members to observe the Lenten disciplines expected of penitents. Thus, Lent has come down to us as a penitential season, in which we confront our sin and God’s amazing grace.
We prepare to re-experience the central mystery of our faith, Christ’s death and resurrection, and we commit ourselves to growing in grace through the ongoing process of sanctification, until we die completely to sin, that we may be raised fully as new creatures in Christ. The church invites us to observe a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word, and by giving alms and deeds of love to those who cannot repay us.