A Lenten Reflection
by Dayna E. Mazzuca
I gave up chips, popcorn and cheezies for Lent. When the pastor put the ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday, is this what he meant? That we would remind ourselves of the scripture that we are dust and to dust we shall return by giving up treats for 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays).
QUESTIONS AT LENT
Do small self-denials teach me about the big sacrifice of Christ on the cross? Can a hint of suffering inform my soul about the larger reality of sanctification on the basis of the Atonement?
Didn’t Christ die so I might have a more abundant, prosperous, joy-filled life? How does sorrow (small and large) grow my soul?
These are the questions raised at Lent. Perhaps denying myself big-bowl treats does not speak of true suffering. Perhaps my small gesture even risks mocking the painful realities that can invade lives, changing us forever. Or, perhaps foregoing simple pleasures starts me thinking along different lines, renewing my mind and causing me to hunger after God in a deeper, more meaningful way. When I took time to walk down the street with my family to a simple evening Ash Wednesday service, did I realize the implications, or did they matter? Or was a gesture of alignment with the larger Church calendar and its built-in spiritual rhythms help keep me in step with a story I cannot tell alone, but must speak—in word, action, gesture and reflection—with others who have gone before and will come after us?
A participant in a larger, ongoing, majestic story, I felt the dusty ash from last year’s palm branches pressing into my forehead, marking me as the same as every other person in the room: common dust along the Way.
The dusty ash brings the story full circle. When once we waved Christ on, celebrating his arrival in Jerusalem, assuming he was on the path of glory and taking us there with him, the palm branches waved, yet less than a year later they are burned for ash. There is a sense of the broad sweep of humanity—all our up’s and down’s, our pains and pleasures—being part of God’s story with us. Christ was cheered. Then he was mocked. Christ was crucified. Then he ascended. There really is no end to this story, although he said on the cross those final, comforting words: “It is finished.”
AN UNENDING FINISHED WORK: no small thing
It’s a finished work on the cross, a finished work with a thousand points of entry, as long as it’s Christ we seek. He is the gate. He is the way.
If he teaches us to be satisfied with him, then I think self-denial might serve to clarify the sole object of our soul’s hunger.
As much as we are dust, we are destined for glory. There is more to enter into with God than we can hope for or imagine. And I wouldn’t want to miss a bit of it, so I observe Lent in my own, small way. And think of bigger things: like suffering, dying, and the promise of resurrection. All of it contained in a spiritual season marked by the most unremarkable of events: basic, human self-denial. All for the sake of Unshakeable, Everlasting Glory: no small thing indeed.