Today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional first day of Lent, a day of fasting, prayer, and repentance.
Learn more about Lent here: http://churchyear.net/lent.html
Today is the “day of ashes” in the Jewish tradition of dumping ashing on your head as a sign of repentance. Many Christians will have ashes (mixed with oil) rubbed on their foreheads today. I actually burned a stick on one end and stuck it in my sock, an ancient tradition similar to rubbing ashes on your forehead, as a sign that I need to repent.
Repentance is not optional; it is essential.
While the Greek word “repent” in the New Testament means to change your mind or to rethink, repentance is a deeper concept than rationally rethinking one’s life. I could do that over a plate of lemon peper wings and drinks. Repentance in the Christian tradtion implies a certain necessity.
I repent because I need to repent.
I need to turn away from self (and every word that has been hyphenated with the word “self” like self-conceit, self-obsession, self-ish desires). I need to turn God in order to receive his grace. I needed this nineteen years ago when I became a Christian and I need it all the more today.
I repent as a matter of lifestyle. In order to live in God’s grace, I must repent. For when I sin, I am the most disconnected from God, from his grace, his Spirit, and his presence. When I sin, I am also the most unChristian, the most unChrist-like.
I need to rpepent, because if my thought dreams could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine.
I repent to live.
I repent therefore I am.
Here is a prayer of repentance for this Ash Wednesday:
Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian
O Lord and Master of my life,
give me not the spirit of laziness,
despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of sobriety,
humility, patience and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King,
grant me to see my own transgressions
and not to judge my brother,
for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.
–St. Ephraim the Syrian (AD 305-373)