May I commend to everyone a Lenten discipline that is slightly more pious and devotional than giving up chocolate or desisting from shaving for forty days! I have been guilty of both in previous Lenten seasons. Lent is a period of time when we attempt to deepen our spiritual lives and our Christian commitment. This is of course very private and, as we all know, Jesus advised his listeners not to practice their piety before others. And yet there are times when we are called upon to declare our faith both in word and in deed without the sanctimonious self righteousness that Jesus was surely alluding to.
The service of ashing takes place on Ash Wednesday. Those who come forward at that service after Holy Communion receive the sign of The Cross on their foreheads as a visible reminder of the faith into which they were baptised; it also serves as a point of commissioning to whatever discipline they may be putting themselves under. It is also a reminder that Jesus should be at the forefront of all our decisions that we may take in life. This is beautifully articulated in the great prayer of St Patrick; “Christ within me, in front of me and at my side.
I guess that really is the purpose of Lent – not that we might appear outwardly religious but that we might become closer to Jesus, more like him and more devoted to discipleship in his name. Lent also reminds us that the faith is a lifelong activity that is taken up daily beginning with prayer.
I do hope that Lent is a useful time for you all in whatever way you feel you best may live through it.