BY ANNA BELMONTE
Last Wednesday, Feb. 10, dozens of McKendree students, faculty and staff came together to celebrate Ash Wednesday, the 40 days of preparation before Easter.
Opening the season of Lent, Ash Wednesday became a symbolic day on which early Christians remembered the 40 days leading to Christ’s resurrection on Easter. Traditionally, worshipers observe Lent with fasting, study of the Scriptures, self-examination, confession and prayer, according to Reverend Tim Harrison, who lead the Ash Wednesday service at Bothwell Chapel. At the commencement of this period of remembrance, all are called to reflect on their own mortality and repent of their sins in the light of the salvation purchased by Christ.
Dozens from the campus community participated in the Ash Wednesday service at the chapel last week. The service involved prayer, Scripture readings, quiet meditation and the symbolic imposition of ashes on participants’ foreheads. According to Harrison, the ashes are “a traditional Jewish sign of penitence.” Harrison says that, in some traditions, worshipers burn the palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday and use the ashes on Ash Wednesday. When worshipers receive the ashes on their forehead, they also receive the declaration, “Dust thou art, and to dust thou wilt return.” The mark of the ashes reminds Christians of their own mortality and need for continued repentance of their sins and commitment to Christ.
Sophomore Bailey Rhoades participates in Ash Wednesday as a demonstration of her commitment to her faith. She says that Lent is a time of preparation, which sometimes involves fasting. Fasting, Rhoades says, can mean abstaining from eating food, or it can mean abstaining from sinful thoughts and actions. “I always give something up in order to respect Jesus’ 40 days without food or water in the desert,” she says.
Likewise, Junior Bradley Groleau says, “Lent, for me, is a time to focus on prayer, sacrifice and giving.” Groleau and Rhoades treat this season as a remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice and also as a season of thankfulness. About Ash Wednesday and what it represents to her as a Catholic, Rhoades says, “to me it’s about being humble and remembering that, without Jesus, our lives would be meaningless.” Both students seek to remember Jesus as their Savior and to give thanks for His blessings.
“Lent is about mortality and transformation,” says Harrison. “It means dying to an old way of being and being born into a new way of being…centered once again in God.” Worshipers are reminded of how short their lives really are and how much they need the regenerating work of Christ in their lives.
Ash Wednesday is only a day out of the year, but it serves as a reminder that we ought every day to consider our fallibility and the great work of salvation Christ accomplished through the Cross and resurrection.