To Christians the advent of Ash Wednesday heralds the period of Lent. During Ash Wednesday ashes are sprinkled on the forehead, as ashes symbolize grief and also an expression of sorrow for a sin. Coming from the Roman rite Lent is referred to as Quadragesmia (meaning 40 in Latin). It is a time frame of six weeks, when believers focus on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ which finally resulted in his crucifixion for the redemption of mankind from sin and its dark consequence, which is total alienation from God’s grace. The Lent season is observed by the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and other denominations including the Pentecost oriented churches. The Ethiopian Churches observe eight weeks of Lent. Some relate the forty days of Lent to the forty days Christ fasted in the wilderness prior to the onset of his public ministry, where he was able to resist three great temptations.
During the Lent period many Christians by traditional upbringing choose to observe a penitential fast or abstain from few indulgences, in order to practise self-denial. Caput ielunil (Latin for beginning of fast) In some countries the day prior to Ash Wednesday is celebrated as Shrove Tuesday, where they make and consume pancakes. In Western countries people have a habit of eating fish and chips on Fridays during Lent. Some adhererants don’t eat meat. The Bible teaches us that “Obedience (to God) is better than sacrifice”, meaning we must obey the instructions of the scripture rather than “let go” of a few meals or some perceived luxury.
During the early middle ages, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Dominican friar who excelled in ethics, metaphysics and political theory, advised people to abstain from meat and dairy products, because of the nourishment content of these foods had an impact on the seminal and hormone levels in people, which would eventually provoke lustful desires leading to sexual sins. Today Jewish rabbi Evan Moffic draws a parallel between the season of Lent and the Passover season observed in Judaism. The Jews also prepare for the Passover by self-examination. Both the Passover and Lent take place during spring season, a time for renewal.
Whilst abstaining from certain worldly pleasure may lead to self-discipline the Holy Bible clearly emphasizes that salvation (the remission of sins) comes from repentance and faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ, the shedding of his unblemished blood has fully paid the price for all human shortcoming and sin. One can still observe in Cathedrals, the crucifixes draped in violet cloth. Clergy in mainline churches wear a violet sash on their white cassock during Lent. Few denominations also have a custom of veiling all religious objects within the sanctuary. The Sundays in Lent carry Latin names – Invocabit, Reminiscere, Oculi, Laetare (meaning rejoice), Judica (Passion Sunday) and Palm Sunday, which leads to Holy Week and the celebration of Easter.
In all religious obligations and observances one can get mildly distracted from what the Bible expects from each believer. It is an individual’s personal choice and ethics as to how they live their daily lives. The Christian witness therefore cannot be simply restricted to “forty days of good behaviour and merit!” The hallmark of a believer takes a lifetime of learning and patient understanding of the deeper truths in the Bible. The Christians life must amidst challenges display the ‘fruits of the Holy Spirit’ which are – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
Our lives must reflect our faith. Crux sancta sit Mihi lux, it’s Latin for ‘Let the Cross be my light, is a good reflection for Lent. As the season of Lent paves way for Good Friday, as we look at the Cross, we can indeed say “Laus tibi Domine, rex aeternae gloriae – Latin for ‘Praise to you O Lord, king of eternal glory!