Howard Coop | A time to make changes
This year, on the first day of March, many, as Christians have for centuries, will observe Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. They will do so by, in a church service, having ashes from Palm branches used on Palm Sunday smeared on their foreheads to remind them that “you are dust, and to dust, you will return.”
Lent, since it began, has been a time of self-denial. During the special season, some commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries that are desired and liked, as a form of penance for forty days, not counting Sundays, before Easter.
It always seemed a little odd that Ash Wednesday, with all of its austerity, follows Shrove Tuesday, better know as Fat Tuesday, a day of excess before Lent begins. Then, Lent ends on Easter, a day for feasting when those good things given up for a specific number of days are eagerly taken up and lavishly enjoyed again, and life goes on without real change.
For some, Lent has become more, for the season has a much deeper meaning. It is a time for meaningful self-denial, and it is also a time for thorough self-examination when one looks deeply inward and evaluates that which is within. On the basis of that self-evaluation, some changes are made that affect everyday life. Things that are deemed to be unnecessary and detrimental to a good life are permanently eliminated, and they are replaced with other things that are helpful and beneficial, things that will make daily life better.
Penance and self-examination, along with self-denial, are important aspects of everyday life; therefore they are not, and cannot be, confined to a forty-day period, not counting Sundays, that are part of a special season of the year. They are or should be a vital part of every day.
While Lent is and has been for centuries a time to prepare for Easter, it is an appropriate time to look into the heart and make some permanent changes that are life directing.
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