One of the things I miss about attending the Catholic Church is the Ash Wednesday service. Some of you may remember I attended the Bishop Cunningham Catholic High School in Oswego, New York. One of my favorite services during the school year was the Ash Wednesday mass. Father Leo Heizman was principal at the beginning of my time there, his faith and love for Jesus always amazed me and was new in comparison to priests I’d met throughout my life. At the time, I didn’t understand why Father Leo was different than other priests I met. It wasn’t until after I accepted Jesus as my Savior that it clicked. I had one of those V8, aha, moments.
Ash Wednesday is an important day in the Catholic church, with services held throughout the day for believers to join together and listen to the reason for Ash Wednesday and the significance of the ashes placed on a Catholic’s forehead to display for all, they believe in Jesus, his death on a cross, and the hope of his resurrection on Easter Sunday. In 2004, I started to attend a Christian church; one of the things that stood out to me was the absence of an Ash Wednesday service.
Being the inquisitive type, I asked the pastor if there was a reason no Ash Wednesday service to start the season of Lent. I can’t remember his response yet I was left to reflect on the majority of my life and this drastic change of events. It took me some time to understand the concept but as I thought about it last week, I think I might finally understand. I could be wrong but here is my understanding on today’s significance in the life of all believers.
Lent represents the forty days before Easter. Easter is the fulfillment of Scripture that after Jesus is crucified; He rose again, and lives in Heaven for Eternity at the right hand of God the Father. He left us Himself, the Holy Spirit, to intercede on our behalf. Is it necessary to place ashes on your head in the form of a cross and to receive a blessing from the priest or lay ministers?
I don’t think it is BUT if this is one of your beliefs and it draws you closer to humbling yourself at the feet of the cross…then you should. The Church is not a building; it is the people believing in God. The church is the people who know Jesus died on the cross for their sins. The church is the people who know they are sinners and are only saved because of Jesus’ crucifixion. We, the church, have the right in this country to worship under whatever “house” or building, we desire but the unity of Church is our believe and faith in God.
I have a secret, or not so secret tidbit to share with you…you don’t have to wait until Ash Wednesday to humble yourself at the Father’s feet, or seek His face, and direction in your life. You can do this on any given day or time but if you enjoy the closeness to Jesus experienced through the process of the blessing of ashes on your forehead, then you should follow this tradition and belief.
I’m thankful we can reflect on God’s gift to us. I’m thankful for God’s sacrifice when He sent Jesus to earth knowing he would life a short life then suffer crucifixion on the cross for our sins. I’m thankful God keeps His promises and Jesus rose again three days later, on Easter Sunday. I’m thankful He left us the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf, especially when we know not what to pray.
As we enter this season of Lent, regardless of your religious beliefs and routines, keep your focus on God and seek His face and direction. Have a conversation with God, also known as prayer, about what He might have you sacrifice for forty days. What might you add to your life to renew and strengthen your faith over the next forty days? Ask God how He plans to use you and what you need to do in order to better achieve HIS plan, not yours.
Lent is a journey to the cross. A journey you aren’t meant to travel alone, God is walking alongside you the entire way…waiting for you to reach out, call out, and seek His love, guidance, and provision.
The best news of all, you don't have to wait until the forty days before Easter to start this relationship and journey...you can do it today, all you have to do is invite God into your heart and life, then spend time daily talking with Him.
Lent and Ash Wednesday are beautiful displays of the intimate relationship available to each of us. Not everyone participates or believes in the traditions of ashes but if you think about it, it's about fasting and starting anew all for the sake of drawing nearer to Jesus. I haven't attended an Ash Wednesday service is years yet the lessons learned when I did remain in my heart with new perspectives I've gained since. It's a learning process.
I'm thankful for the various religions that build our Church...church is the believers and one day, in heaven we'll join hands and humble ourselves together at the feet of Jesus. It's not about the different practices, it's all about the heart and our relationships with Jesus. I'm thankful for Lent as it draws attention to Jesus' death and resurrection and opens the door to share our faith with others.
What, if any, traditions or routines
Lisa M Buske
P.O. Box 323