Today we start the season in the Church Year known as Lent.
The word Lent comes from an Old English word for Spring (“lengten,” the time of the year when the days grow longer). For the last 1700years, the Church has set aside the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter as a time of special preparation. It is a time ofrepentance and renewal.
Ash Wednesday begins this Lenten journey with a reminder of our mortality and a call to repentance. The ancient practice of imposing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful gives Ash Wednesday its name. The church father Tertullian (c. AD 160-215) writes of the practice as a public expression of repentance and of our human frailty that stands in need of Christ. The ashes remind us forcefully of our need for redeeming grace as they recall words from the rite for Christian burial: “… earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…,” words that will someday be spoken over us all.