This Ash Wednesday the Primus, Bishop Mark, offers a reflection on beginning the season of Lent. This is the first of a series of reflections from a variety of voices within the Scottish Episcopal Church that will be published as the Church journeys through Lent and Holy Week.
I like Lent. I know that might seem a bit odd, but I do. The arrival of Ash Wednesday allows me to say legitimately to meeting planners and event organisers: “I cannot do that as I have my Lenten discipline to consider.” The world slows down just a fraction and I can find time to pray and to consider the next steps of ministry.
I don’t subscribe to the “make Lent miserable” brigade, who spend time telling each other about how much they have given up, or how many temptations they have not succumbed to. For me, Lent is a good time to connect with those aspects of my life that get squeezed out in a busy schedule.
I try to finish my working day early enough to sit quietly and say Compline at 9pm, in the knowledge that many others share this moment with me in many different places. I try to re-establish my sacramental life and find time to sit quietly in church and commune with God.
Ash Wednesday is therefore a good day for me. It is the beginning of a 40-day period when the Church finds space to watch and wait with Christ in the wilderness. We receive ashes on our foreheads as a symbol of our penitence, and we put aside certain words and symbols as we consider what a gift we are given through Jesus’s response to his temptations. He resisted the temptation to become a powerful earthly ruler, and he resisted the temptation to take power. Instead, he followed the path that gave away those things so that through his life and sacrifice, we are saved.
I don’t want to spend Lent worrying about keeping to a list of what I can or can’t do, say, eat or drink. I would rather spend my 40 days considering how I can resist the temptation to keep Jesus to myself, close and comforting, and instead pray for ways and for the strength to share God with a world that desperately needs to feel the love that radiates from the life, death and resurrection of Christ.