As a Christian, at this time of year I am drawn into a self-examination period called Lent. Lent is observed by Catholic and Protestant churches who follow the liturgical calendar. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on the Friday before Easter. Good Friday. A great deal of symbolism is involved in these days.
The primary one would be that Lent equals (generally) 40 days symbolizing the number of days that Christ spent in the desert testing his own faith and the Holy Father. He was visited and tempted by Satan during those days while praying and trusting in his God for deliverance. At one point, as the Gospels tell, he jumped from a pinnacle to prove to the devil that angels would lift him up.
For us it is a time of self-examination, recognizing our faults and opening our hearts to God's grace in accepting forgiveness. Some fast as penitence. Many give up something that may or may not be a fault. I have a friend who gives up watermelon and trips in the Sahara desert. He says it; folks laugh. I've never asked if he recognizes the connection there on the desert part. This Lenten season I am trying to stop using a specific bad word. So far, I've failed twice but the good news is there is always the grace to try again.
Ash Wednesday. The first day of Lent when we allow our foreheads to be marked with ashes in the sign of the cross. It represents, as the Bible tells, ashes to ashes. It is the reminder of our own mortality.
Of course we all know that the day before Ash Wednesday is Fat or Shrove Tuesday. Mardis Gras. Although it may not seem so, Mardis Gras is, technically, a religious event. It is the end of the liturgical season of Epiphany which follows the birth of Christ. It represents the last day to "indulge" prior to fasting for Lent. The word "shrove" actually means "to confess". So it is the end of the celebration of Christ's birth and an entry into a time of serious contemplation, confession and denial.
Good Friday is representative of the day of the cross. After days in the courts of Rome, Christ is led to the hill of Golgotha and hanged there. The Bible tells that his death represents the death of sin in all of us. According to the account in the New Testament, this man was without sin. In the strictest sense, his "sin" to the Romans was that he threatened their control.
Easter Sunday is the day of resurrection. The day that Mary went to the tomb to pray and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. A beautiful hymn proclaims "He arose. He arose. Hallelujah, Christ arose." Now, as with Christmas, we are returned to a period of celebration. There are seven Sundays of Easter and then we enter into Pentecost which celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. Twelve, minus one.
This post developed from my trying to decide what, if anything, I needed to give up. The bad word, previously mentioned, is but a symbol of my penitence and prayer for the forgiveness which is eminent and omnipotent.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. John 3:17