Lent is a religious custom found within Christianity as being practiced primarily by people of the Catholic faith. It typically consists of a period of 40 days (depending on the year) that come before the commemoration day of the resurrection of Jesus. In this part I will address the subject of Ash Wednesday and the Biblical use of Ashes and Sackcloth as an expression of repentance.
Lent involves the practice of repentance from sin, fasting and abstinence, as well as prayer. All of which are believed to lead towards spiritual purification so that the practitioner may draw closer to God and obtain both blessings and favor. Although Lent holds several Biblical attributes, its practice as a whole is not instituted by God nor found as a Jewish custom within God’s Word.
The religious custom of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, it begins at sunrise and ends a couple of hours after sunset. A schedule is set by most Catholic congregations in order to accommodate as many practitioners as possible in its practice.
The practice entails practitioners attending a special service where a religious leader presents a special message regarding lent. Then he and his assistants administer the rubbing of ashes (in the shape of a cross) on the forehead of the practitioners. The practitioners usually wear their ashes until the end of the day.
Ashes and Sackcloth
Biblicaly, ashes were often used as form of outer expression for a type of mourning whether personal or corporate. In addition, ashes were often accompanied with sackcloth. In biblical times, sackcloth was a coarse material that was uncomfortable to wear. Furthermore, it was used as a symbol mourning and repentance. It was often used by someone experiencing deep mourning over the death of a loved one as well as prophets who called out people unto repentance of sin.
Personal: Genesis 37:33-34 * 1 Kings 21:25-29 * Ezra 8: 21-23 * Esther 4:15-17 * Daniel 9:3-6 *
Corporate: 2 Kings 19:1-2 *Esther 4:1-3 * Jonah 3:4-6 *
In closing, ashes and sackcloth are no longer necessary practices for expressing repentance or anything else for that matter. All God asks of all believers is a broken heart and a contrite spirit so that they may be saved ( Psalms 34:18). After all, salvation through Jesus will give all of the believers “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3). Amen
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R. A. Gómez