BY Nziwu Uchechi
Today we begin 40 days of lent which can be interpreted as the annual retreat of God’s people in imitation of Jesus ‘Forty Days in the Wilderness.’
Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of lent and is usually 46 day before Easter Sunday. In his sermon, Rev. Fr. Chidi Duru posited that, ‘Ash Wednesday offers us the opportunity for sober reflection on the mystery of Easter, Victory and glory come at a prize; understanding what it took to set us free from the bondage of the old will enable us to appreciate God more for this wonderful and mysterious gift of grace.
‘We should be unbreakable and unbeatable, This requires inner work of prayer, fasting alms giving and repentance. It is not a show business, this is why we need to put oil of gladness on our heads as we embark on internal and spiritual exercise and battle against all forms of fear, anxiety, depression, worry, doubts and despair.
Among other reasons, putting ash on our faces today is a kind of demonstration and witnesses that ash signifies what we were; SIN, which came through Adam, reduced us to death and ashes. And the CROSS signed with the ash is what delivered us from sin and death.
Lent is a 40-day season not including Sundays marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. The 40day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him.
In many congregations, the ashes are prepared by burning palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday, churches bless and hand out palm branches to attendees, a reference to the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem when onlookers lay palm branches on his path.
The ashes of this holiday symbolize two main things: death and repentance. “Ashes are the same like dust, and human flesh is composed of dust or clay Genesis 2:7, and when a human corpse decomposes, it returns to dust or ash.
It is also important to know that this commemoration is observed by Catholics in the Roman Rite, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodist, Moravians, Nazarenes, and as well as many from the Reformed faith inclusive of the congregationalist, continental reformed and Presbyterian traditions.