Happy Ash Wednesday! Today is my absolute favorite Catholic holiday, with the Advent season as a close second. Some may find it silly that we make a big deal of going to Mass and then parading around with ashes on our forehead for the rest of the day, which depending on when you go to Mass can be quite long. We get strange looks, the inevitable "You have something on your face" comment, and there are always those times we feel judged. Maybe you think it's showy, maybe it offends you (God forbid that happen in this day and age), but honestly, I take pride in my ashes and I encourage all of my fellow Catholics to do the same. Let me tell you why. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a 40 day fast period before Easter. Before the day we celebrate the Lord being crucified and rising from the grave. FOR US. He did all of that for us. He suffered, he endured, he struggled. He was whipped. He was mocked. He even wore a crown of thorns. All for you and I, His brothers and sisters who are hopeless sinners and can only strive to be as great as Him. So really the least we can do as mere human beings is to parade around once a year bearing the humbling sign of Him in ashes on our foreheads. As you receive your ashes the priest says, "You are dust and to dust you may return." That statement is humbling on so many levels. We come from nothing; we are made of the very ground that we walk and spit on, but we were worth dying for. As mentioned in the readings today, Lent is a time of rebirth; it's a period when you can wipe your slate clean and begin new, so make the most of it.
As I mentioned before, Lent (the 40 day period that Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of) is a period of fasting. The church challenges us to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent while also participating in a fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. These are thought to be a minimum and you are encouraged to "give up" something else during the period. Over the years I've given up dessert, candy, fast food, Twitter, even Netflix (which truly does increase productivity and grades, imagine that). This year I have obtained a sort of candy addiction, so that is what I will be fasting from over the next 40 days. In addition to fasting from some things, you can also set goals for yourself. I try to set religious goals as a way to go the extra mile, so this year I decided to start praying a daily Rosary and I am going to try to make it to Adoration and the Stations of the Cross one Friday.
You may ask why we make all this fuss. In the Catholic Church we celebrate Advent to prepare our hearts for the Christmas holiday and bring our focus on the birth of Jesus Christ. Lent is similar in that we are preparing for Jesus Christ, except this time it is to celebrate his rising. We have a 40 day period because it is symbolic of the 40 days in the Bible that Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan. Our fast during Lent is reciprocal of His sacrifice for us; this time we are the ones making a sacrifice. Your Lenten promises are meant to challenge you, they are not meant to be easy. We are supposed to be tempted by the things we give up. That's the whole point. So this Lent challenge yourself, don't do the same thing you always do or give up something that will not be difficult for you. Go that extra because Jesus sure went above and beyond for you.
Britt's reading corner: Since most of my current reading material involves textbooks my suggestion for you is to read a little of the Bible everyday. (Maybe make this your Lenten promise) It can be very comforting.
Until next time my friends,