Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent. This is the day when Roman Catholics traditionally apply an ashen cross on their foreheads. Marking with ash is a symbolic reminder that we come from the dust and that so much of what we do, and are, will return to dust one day.
You may choose to use some ashes as a symbol as you read the following scripture passages. You may use the ashes to make a cross on your forehead, or merely hold some in your hands to get a feel for it. Lent is about remembering why Jesus died. He died because we think and do evil things. These things anger God, and such evil is destined to be reduced to ash one day.
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is nearó a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come. ...Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, "Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery" (Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 - NRSV)
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8-14 - NRSV)
Lord, your love for me is so great, you breath life into my dry and dusty soul. You satisfy my thirst with living water. You anoint my head with perfumed oil. Yes! By your astounding mercy and love, I am no longer dead, but alive! And though I repeatedly refuse your blessing of milk and honey, choosing instead to wallow in the very dust you free me from, each day you lift me up again. I am redeemed by you, again and again. Praise you Lord. May your name resound in the whole Earth!
See the page on fasting
for some important considerations before you modify your diet. Remember that these are suggestions: you are encouraged to modify this practice in any way that will lead you more readily into God's presence.
Consider fasting for a meal or two today. If you fast from two meals, try skipping breakfast and lunch. Begin the day with some orange juice and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Also, try having a media-free day. Be deliberate about setting time aside for God, and not filling empty spaces with activity.
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, A Devotional for Lent by David Maddalena
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