On February 14, the liturgical season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and will end on Good Friday, March 30. In churches throughout the world, people will participate in the remembrance of human mortality as they have ashes and oil anointed upon their foreheads. This practice of facing the anxiety of death is an important one to partake in as people prepare for Lent, the time of penance and self-reflection.
In order to better understand this complex and often misunderstood liturgical season, I spoke with Professor Logan Kruck of the theology department. When asked what Ash Wednesday was, he replied:
“The beauty of Ash Wednesday that we need to understand is that it is the day that starts Lent, but it’s also the day in which we end Epiphany. The season of Epiphany is a bit more of a celebratory season where we are seeking and discovering who Christ is and imagining the possibility of the Messiah… but Ash Wednesday is the hard stop in which we consider the truth and frailty of our lives and the fact that we are temporary… in preparation for the end of Lent.”
Prof. Kruck explained the dichotomy of Ash Wednesday, a day in which we move from hope and celebration into penance and servanthood, as we “recognize the frailty around us that prepares us to experience the needs of the world.” Ash Wednesday is intended to be a reflective season that brings people closer to God through their practices of either removing something important from their lives and/or adding a serving or reflective activity in order to practice self-emptying.
Geoff Miller, a senior at SNU, commented on the common symbols that add to the importance of Ash Wednesday, saying,
“Traditionally, Ash Wednesday has included the burning of palm branches that were from the previous Palm Sunday and turning it into a paste, using anointing oils and anointing the church community’s foreheads. This is a symbol that we are finite and will die, a symbol of humility by reminding ourselves of our mortality… This reminds us of our need to accept the grace of God. It is also an act of penance, as we recognize who we are, our limits and our weaknesses. This prepares us for the upcoming season of fasting.”
The season of Lent is a time in which we become centered in our humanity, looking at ourselves and looking at God and confessing the difference. Although this season is not a time of celebration, it is the perfect time to participate in the practice of serving and reflecting.
Ash Wednesday services are available at many churches in the area– here are a few of the Nazarene service times:
Bethany First Church of the Nazarene: Wednesday, February 14 @ 6:30
Lake Overholser Church of the Nazarene: Wednesday, February 14 @ 6:30
OKC First Church of the Nazarene: Wednesday, February 14 @ 6:30
(Photo Courtesy of Google Image)