Easter: a day set aside exclusively to rejoice in Christ’s blood shed for us and the victory he won for through resurrection. While most people on campus aren’t even close to thinking of Easter, different denominations and believers around the world will soon begin to observe Lent.
Feb. 22 is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. This season has been observed by the church for hundreds of years, focusing on dedication to Christ as an individual and a community. By practicing this cherished tradition this year, one may grow closer to God or at least feel refreshed in their faith in Him.
Lent is the six-week period before Easter when Christians (usually from a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican background) will prepare their hearts for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This 40-day period is intended to mirror the 40-day period Jesus spent in the desert, resisting temptation and preparing for his ministry.
Sophomore Natalie Schneider comes from a Lutheran background and practices Lent every year with her church. One of the most impactful Lent practices for Schneider is the Ash Wednesday service.
“The ashes we receive in the form of a cross on our forehead are the ashes of the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday,” Schneider said. “They remind us that we were created from dust and to dust we shall return … but Jesus remains eternal.”
After the Ash Wednesday service, individuals in the church may begin to fast. Fasting can look like abstaining from any sort of thing during the Lent period: a meal, social media or watching television.
Father Joe Murphy is a minister from Ascension, an Anglican church in Marion, Indiana. Murphy explained how creating a space in one’s life by fasting can make room to add something beneficial. For example, Murphy has fasted from watching television before and replaced that time with time spent reading the Greek New Testament.
“The thing you give up is not what is of value,” Murphy said. “The question is, how are we personally drawn into the world in a way that stops [us] from listening to God?”
The fasting aspect of Lent is meant to create a time of inward reflection on the sacrifice Christ made for us, as well as honest confession of sin in order to repent. In this way, a believer is making room in their life to quiet themselves and hear from God.
In addition to individually observing Lent, a congregation will often gather together to reflect and share a meal. This year, Ascension is gathering on three Wednesday nights throughout the season to enjoy fellowship with one another.
Murphy emphasizes the intention behind observing Lent is to focus on loving God and loving others well. Confessing sins, repenting, spending more time with the Lord and letting that time overflow into love for others is a way to show Christ that we love him.
“What do you want to do to communicate how you feel to one you love?” Murphy said.
One might wonder how to practice Lent this year, especially if they do not attend a liturgical church. One way to dive right into the practice is by attending an Ash Wednesday service. Ascension will be holding their annual service at 7 p.m. this Wednesday.
Committing to a devotional plan for the season of Lent may also prove to be beneficial and a wonderful reminder to use this season before Easter reflecting on the sinfulness of humanity and fully grasping the wonderful gift of Christ’s blood. Devotional plans for Lent can be found on the YouVersion bible app or online; a helpful one can be found at livingcompass.org/lent.
Finally, fasting itself can be another reminder of Christ’s sacrifice while also building a healthy habit. Many college students can give up junk food, soda or social media for Lent and replace the time spent doing those things with prayer or reflection. This can be a reminder that pleasure and satisfaction are found in Christ alone.
One favorite way for Schneider to observe the season is to learn Lenten songs.
“They dig deep into the core of Jesus’ character … reminding us of our sins revealed in the Law, but Jesus’ redemption of us when he fulfilled it,” Schneider said.
Even if not observing the season of Lent through traditional methods, this window before Easter is the perfect time to quiet one’s heart and reflect on the sacrifice of Christ. You might just be surprised as you withdraw from the world and share in deeper communion with Him.