Rectors Reflections

A Special Day

Do you have anything planned for Wednesday 17th February?

You might well be thinking to yourself: why the 17th February? What’s so special about the 17th February?

Well, this year 17th February is the day on which Lent starts. Lent always starts on a Wednesday, 40 days before Easter. The date of Easter varies from year to year, and so the date of Ash Wednesday varies accordingly. You will doubtless know why it’s called Ash Wednesday, and the fact that this comes from the tradition of attending a church service on this day and receiving the mark of the cross on our forehead. The mark is made from ash, and there is another tradition of making this ash from the palm crosses which have been kept from the previous year.

Why do Christians do this? In part it’s about recognising that we all fall short. We all need to say sorry to God and ask for God’s help to change things for the better. The sign of the cross is a way of saying sorry to God and asking for his help. It’s a visual expression of spiritual humility - the humility to accept that we’re not perfect, and that we need to change.

But the sign of the Cross is also a way of focussing on Jesus, and the significance of his life, death and resurrection. For the last 2000 years, Christians have believed that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we can receive God’s gift of new life. This has been the experience of countless millions of Christians down the centuries. Theologians have used various words and theories to describe this experience of new life in Jesus. Sometimes people use words such as “atonement” or “justification” or “salvation”. The words used are, ultimately, neither here nor there. The key thing is the reality of new life, which is given to us as gift from God, and experienced through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

And so the sign of the cross isn’t just about saying sorry to God, important thought this is. It’s also about acknowledging that through Jesus we receive the gift of a new beginning.

The 40 days of Lent which begin on Ash Wednesday is a time when, once again, we prepare ourselves to receive God’s gift of new life. I wonder what this might mean for us this year?

Fr Jason