Feb 02 2016

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Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs forty-six days before Easter. It falls on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter. Ash Wednesday can occur as early as 4 February or as late as 10 March. In 2016 Ash Wednesday falls on 10 February. The observance of Ash Wednesday has its roots in the penitential discipline of the early Church. In those days Christians whose notorious sins had caused scandal were excommunicated. After a period of penitence – which included wearing sack-cloth and ashes, fasting and prayer – these persons were reinstated during the Easter Vigil. By the 5th century public penitence of all the faithful had become associated with Lent as the community prepared for Easter. Ash Wednesday is named for the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from Palm Sunday celebrations in the previous year are burned. Ashes were used in ancient times to express mourning, remorse and penitence. Penitents expressed sorrow for their faults and sins by pouring ashes on their heads. An ancient biblical example of such a penitential expression is found in Job's cry of sorrow and remorse:

'I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. ' Job 42:5-6

Lent lasts for 40 days, and the Lenten Fast is not a Sunday experience. There arc 5 Sundays in Lent which together with Palm Sunday account for the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day. The Sundays in Lent are always Little Easters which give thanks for our Lord's Resurrection from the dead and which are set apart from the Lenten Fast. As they lead us from Ash Wednesday to Easter, the Sunday Eucharistic readings point emphatically towards the gift of salvation and abundant new life which is ours in the victory of Jesus Christ over sin, darkness and death.

Liturgical Colour

The traditional liturgical colour for Ash Wednesday and for Lent is purple.

The Readings for Ash Wednesday

The readings for Ash Wednesday are the same in Years A, B and C. with two alter-natives provided for the First Lesson. The readings emphasize worthy preparation for the Paschal Mystery.

The Readings for the Sundays in Lent

Lent I readings: focus our attention on the expected response of the people to the Covenant that God established with them, and on the temptation of our Lord in the wilderness;

Lent II readings: hold before us the Covenant with Abraham and a prediction of his passion by our Lord;

Lent III readings: declare the offer of salvation which the passion-death-resurrection of our Lord won for us: and the parable of the gardener who appealed for one more chance to feed the unfruitful fig tree;

Lent IV readings: affirm the generous offer of salvation by recording the celebration of the Passover after the entry into the Promised Land and the parable of the extravagant father and his two sons.

Lent V readings: remind us of the new thing that God is about to do for the re-turning exiles, and Mary anoints Jesus' feet in preparation for his imminent death and burial. The readings for the Sundays in Lent take us on a pilgrimage of penitence, faith and gratitude for the gift of salvation in preparation for the celebration of our Lord's victory at Easter.
(Source: The Anglican Church of Southern Africa. 2015. Lectionary Advent 2015- Advent 2016 Year C)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.stgeorge.org.za/2016/02/02/season-of-lent/