Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent in the Christian tradition, a 40-day period of reflection, self-denial, and prayer in preparation for the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
While a lot of Protestant churches don’t observe Lent, our church, in an unusual and pleasant nod to tradition, does. In our culture, we don’t tend to spend a lot of time thinking about our shortcomings or denying ourselves anything. I know I don’t spend nearly enough time engaged in either activity.
I don’t think it’s too much to observe a period of sacrifice, on the eve of the greatest sacrifice the world has ever known, nor to challenge ourselves to careful self-examination and repentance of sins, on the eve of the event that made the forgiveness of those sins possible.
I also discovered something new (to me) about Lent today–in the Catholic tradition, believers are encouraged not only to fast from something important to them, but also to devote some time to contemplating the writings of the Church Fathers, which provide an important piece of the foundation for all Christian practice, but are sadly neglected in the Protestant world. So, I’m going to add that piece to my Lenten observance this year. If I’m not careful, I might even learn something before I’m through.
A nice resource for this is available at http://www.churchyear.net/lentfathers.html, where there’s a file containing readings and a 40-day schedule for working through them, about 10-15 minutes a day.