The importance of Lent
By Chris Quilpa
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the observance of Lenten season for Christians and Catholics worldwide.
Ash Wednesday is a yearly Christian practice of receiving ashes on our forehead to signify “we are dust and to dust we will return.” The ashes symbolize penance, mourning and mortality.
During this Christian holy day of prayer, fasting, abstinence and repentance, a pastor marks the sign of the cross on the faithful’s forehead with ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday leaves or branches that were blessed, collected and then burned.
The practice of receiving ashes dates back to the fifth century and became a widespread Christian tradition by the 11th century.
Though there was no obligatory rule by churches regarding keeping the ashes on the forehead throughout the day, some Christian leaders encourage or recommend Christians to keep or wear their ashed cross for the rest of the day as a public profession of their Christian faith and an exercise of their religious freedom.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, which includes 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays) and ends on Easter Sunday. The 40 days of Lent are to remind us believers of the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert.
The word Lent comes from the Old English “lencten,” which means “spring.”
Lent offers us Christians a unique opportunity to grow in our faith and to experience God’s immense love for everyone. It is a wonderful time to grow in and strengthen the faith that binds all of us together and makes all things possible because of our love and devotion to our Lord.
As a religious season to observe and commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who, we believe, is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. Lent is the time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ, an opportune time to repent for our misdeeds and misgivings and to increase awareness and intensity of our prayer, fasting (or not eating as much food as usual), and alms-giving.
Let us not underestimate the power of prayer in our lives. To counteract the negativity, fear and hopelessness in our lives, we pray for ourselves and others. Prayer can save us from a lot of troubles. It can also lead us to a life of holiness towards God.
As followers of Christ, we practice alms-giving and fasting. We give of our time, talents and treasures. We share what we have because we believe that giving is caring and loving. We believe in giving because it is in giving that we receive more blessings and grace from our Almighty God. To share is to give, and to give is to love, and to let others experience our faith.
We give up something or deprive ourselves of something at Lent so that others can have it. That’s a sacrifice for others, for God. We just let others have it, instead of ourselves. That’s an act of love for others and for God because we see Christ in them.
Praying and repenting for our sins, fasting and alms-giving, observing the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments can help us renew and grow in faith, especially during this Lenten season.
Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.