Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Christian penitential season of Lent. I always have a difficult time with this season, which I guess is the point of it.
My Lutheran pastor sent us a note yesterday with some thoughts on Lenten disciplines:
You are encouraged to practice self-denial (fasting), charity (alms-giving), and intensified prayer during this season. While there are traditional "rules" for fasting, please do not make Lent merely a season of following rules. The purpose of self-denial is not to please God by the mere action, or do without something only to return to it with pleasure and zeal later. No, the discipline is to learn that all good things come from God, and we must put away especially our idols of self-reliance and self-absorption.
A few years ago, a friend told me he was giving up bad language for Lent. He worked in an environment riddled with it, and it had become part of his way of life. He was giving up bad language for Lent with the goal of never returning to it. That, I submit, is a better fasting than refraining from chocolate for a month and a half!
So look at your life: where are the sins? What in your life is keeping you from devotion, filling your mind with impurity, or distracting you from the needs of your neighbor? Give up that.
Finally, make this season a time of special prayer and scriptural meditation by receiving God's gifts at the following times throughout Lent.
My dear brother has always responded to the question of what he was going to give up for Lent with "sin!" I love the approach, even if I've tended more toward the food fasting in my own Lenten disciplines.
This year our family is following the model above -- we have a few things that are distracting us from the higher things and we're going to focus on them during Lent. I'm prayerful that it goes well for us.
So, Ricochetti who practice Lent, any tips for making it through the long haul? You ready for fasting, alms-giving and increased devotion?
And have you gotten any weird looks for those ashes on your forehead yet?