The imposition of ashes and God’s gift of repentance

What an Ash Wednesday service we had:  the Litany AND the imposition of ashes AND the sacrament of Holy Communion.  The grandkids thought it was cool to have ashes put on their heads, but it was hard to see them with the mark of death upon them, but that’s the way it is.  I think Pastor Cwirla’s objection to the imposition of ashes that I blogged about yesterday–that a pastor is to convey forgiveness, not another reminder of sin and death–is answered when the service includes the sacrament, so that the pastor is giving both the law followed by the gospel.

But I want to share with you another take on the imposition of ashes.  Sandra Ostapowich, in a movingly honest and well-written post, writes about her struggles to apply Lenten disciplines, to conquer her sins, and even to repent of them.  But then the imposition of ashes reminds her of how God does everything for her salvation, including giving her the gift of repentance. [Read more…]

“Why We Don’t Do Ashes on Ash Wednesday”

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  I love the rite of the imposition of ashes, when the pastor marks our foreheads with the sign of the cross made in ashes, with the words “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  We need to remember that fact.

But what I want to post for the occasion is a classic piece by Rev. William Cwirla from a few years ago, on “Why We Don’t Do Ashes on Ash Wednesday.”  It’s not what you might expect.  It’s a different kind of remembrance of death, and a reflection on the pastor’s vocation.  He even goes deeper into the symbolism in a way that will help those who do “do ashes on Ash Wednesday.”

UPDATE:  Don’t get me wrong.  Most of us Lutherans do impose ashes.  See this rejoinder to Rev. Cwirla’s piece from Rev. David Petersen, via Trent David.
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Thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return

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A video for Lent

Concordia Publishing House has put together an excellent video explaining what Lent is all about.   See it after the jump. [Read more…]

Lent and Ash Wednesday are NOT pagan relics (a rerun)

Time to rerun a post from last year:

Pastor Joseph Abrahamson dismantles the myth that Lent and its practices have pagan origins. An excerpt from his longer post on the subject:

The ancient Church chose to keep a fast during the forty days before Passover/Easter to focus on repentance and the gift of the Resurrection at Easter. St. Athanasius, who led at the Council of Nicea to defeat Arianism—a denial of Christ being truly God and man in one person—was a bishop in Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote annual Festival letters to the Church as they prepared to celebrate Easter. In the year 331 he wrote in order to encourage his congregations in Egypt to keep the Lenten fast for 40 days. Athanasius directs the readers to many Scriptural examples and exhortations to moderation, self-control, and fasting for repentance. Athanasius gives several Bible examples of the 40 day fast, especially of Christ’s 40 day fast, after which Athanasius wrote: [Read more…]

Fasting for 40 days before Easter

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  There are those who claim that these too have pagan origins, which is particularly ludicrous.  In his ongoing dismantling of the claims that Christian holidays have pagan origins,  Pastor Joseph Abrahamson tells about the true origin of Lent, the 40 day fast (not counting the six Sundays, which are feast days) before Easter.  See the details after the jump.

Lent always does me good.  Resolutions with a limited time frame are easier to keep.  The small acts of self-denial and self-discipline are good from me, as are eating less (and healthier) and my custom of reading some heavy-duty theology.  (This year:  Martin Chemnitz on the Two Natures of Christ.)  And observing Lent really does set up a joyous Easter.

I’ve noticed that even many Christians who do not follow the church year all that much are starting to observe Lent.

What about you?  What do you do for Lent, if anything?  What does it do for you?

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