St Mary's Uttoxeter

Leading into Lent

25 Jan 2021 • Articles

The beginning of Lent is quite early this year: its first day, Ash Wednesday, falls on 17th February. The traditional service for Ash Wednesday includes 'ashing', making the sign of the cross on each person's forehead with ash from last year's Palm Crosses. The Palm Crosses which are given out each year on Palm Sunday remind Christians that people welcomed Jesus joyfully when he came to Jerusalem, then rejected him on Good Friday, letting fear overcome their love for him.

Ash Wednesday and Lent remind us that just a few weeks earlier we were singing carols to welcome Jesus at Christmas-time, but many of our good intentions and New Year resolutions have already been forgotten. To be able to welcome the risen Jesus in his Easter glory, we must stop for a while, think about how many mistakes we make, and repent of our sins.

Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, is traditionally a day for reflecting on our lives, admitting where we have fallen short, show that we are sorry, and make amends if we can. So Shrove Tuesday also becomes Pancake Day - pancakes used to be simple food, sprinkled with the bitter juice of lemons, as a reminder that the six weeks of Lent should be a time of plain living, avoiding the temptations of things which are sweet but not healthy.

The Ash Wednesday service of 'Ashing' includes the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return; turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. "This does rightly sound solemn, but it offers real encouragement because turning away from prejudices, meanness and selfish tendencies makes us able to receive Jesus Christ in our hearts. Welcoming Jesus sincerely and consistently means not just seeing his glory, but finally being part of it: bodies do return to dust at the end of their physical life, but Christian souls live forever in God's kingdom.

People often ask, 'What are you giving up for Lent?' Find one bad habit or mean way of thinking and give that up - but don't just let it leave a blank space, fill the gap by taking up something good, kind words and deeds, shining for Jesus.

With every blessing for the forty days of Lent,