Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday.
Lent is a time of self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Ashes from the burned palms of the preceding year’s Palm Sunday are blessed. With these ashes, the priest marks a cross on the foreheads of worshipers, saying, “remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19). From Biblical times, sprinkling oneself with ashes has been a mark of sorrow for sin.
What is sin? The Greek word for it in the New Testament is ἁμαρτιῶν (pronounced “hararton”), literally “missing the mark/not hitting the target.” During Lent we must be honest with ourselves, a not all together easy task, and ask: “How have I missed the mark? How have I failed to hit my target? Has my missing my target caused pain to others? Have I separated myself from others because I have missed the mark? How has missing the mark hurt not only others but God, and even myself? How have I cut myself off from God, neighbor and self? How can I be reconciled to God, neighbor and even myself?”
With the Church all around the word, let us pray: Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
Your servant in Christ,
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550