The church season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, where we come forward and receive a cross of ash marked on our forehead along with the words, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return." This is a somber service. The colors in the sanctuary change from a brilliant white on Transfiguration Sunday to a deep purple on Ash Wednesday, the color of night falling. The candle that was lit in celebration of baptisms will be gone, and we will come forward in worship, to receive ashes smudged on our foreheads. Why do we do this each and every year?
It's because of this phrase - memento mori - "Remember, you must die." This is not a reminder anyone likes to hear, but it is the reason the Church embarks on the Season of Lent each year for 40 days before Easter. A reminder of physical death? Yes, and yet more than that, it is a reminder that in order for a new life to begin and to grow and flourish, there must be a death. The somberness, the darkness, the ash, the reminder of our mortality, all serve one purpose: to wake us up. We like the disciples on the mount of Transfiguration need to be awakened from our sin, spiritual slumber, the familiar, and the comfortable, in order to recognize the goodness of God. In Romans, the Apostle Paul tells us "if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (8:13). That is what we as individuals and as the church seek during the season of Lent, to put to death that we might live. It's why we receive the ashes in the form of a cross, because from the sign of death comes new life.
We invite you to participate with us in a Holy Lent, starting with Ash Wednesday, and make this season a season set apart for God. You can begin simply by setting aside time in the midst of the hurry of the week to pause, to remember, to reflect on God's mercies to you.
Lent originated as a time of preparation for Easter, spanning 40 days (not including Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. During Lent, we spend a little longer confessing our sins because the focus of this season is repentance - a turning of our hearts, minds, and actions from ourselves to God. An ancient practice of the Church is fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We encourage you - as a way to turn your heart towards God to fast from a food, drink, habit, or vice this season, and replace it with prayer, reading or memorizing scripture, or sitting quietly before the Lord for a few minutes each day. The Sundays in Lent are in the season but not of it and are celebrated as "feast" days, traditionally days on which Lenten fasts are broken as we gather together for worship and to celebrate Christ's resurrection.
Purple, the color of Lent, signifies penitence and humility and is meant to remind us of humanity's suffering under sin and of Christ's suffering on the cross- the color of a bruise. Purple is also the color of royalty and anticipates the coming glory of Christ's resurrection on Easter.
Join us as we seek to see God more clearly, recognize his mercies to us - new every morning - and rejoice more fully at Easter.
We create this prayer guide every year as a form of scaffolding to help shape and nurture your life of prayer during this season. Each week of Lent features readings, prayers, and hymns for you to use independently, with family, friends, or a formation group. We encourage you to choose a time, either in the morning or evening, to engage in daily prayer, directing your heart, mind, and soul towards God and away from ourselves. You can utilize these resources, along with others available in our All Saints Bookstore, to join us in dedicating this season to God in observance of a Holy Lent.