A Letter from the Vicar
The Season of Lent
Did you enjoy your pancakes at the Village Hall on Shrove Tuesday? As you will know, that was the ‘feasting’ before the ‘fasting’ during the season of Lent that began on Ash Wednesday. At our Benefice service for Ash Wednesday hosted by St. Saviours, we performed the ancient ceremony of ‘ashing’, the act of signing communicants’ foreheads with the sign of the cross in ashes, created from the burning of last year’s palm crosses.
Note: I buy in ready-made ashes these days since there was one year when I tried to burn them live at a service in St. Barnabas and successfully set off the fire alarm!
The Significance of Ashes
In the Bible ashes are significant to remind us of our mortality, as a sign of grief and as an act of repentance. In Psalm 103 v 1-5 (below) the Psalmist praises the LORD for ‘redeeming us from the pit’, literally buying us back from the brink of death,
We are to ‘forget not all his benefits’ and count our blessings rather than wallow in self-pity but recognise our true position before God, sinners in need of repentance, ‘he forgives all our sins’.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Praise the LORD, my soul
Reflecting on our mortality and sinfulness may lead to downcast faces and regrets for past failures and wrong decisions. However, the Psalmist is upbeat because rather than focussing on us, he encourages us to turn to God and extol all the things God has done. God is compassionate, full of love and mercy, and above all, has our best interests at heart. Hence, we say:
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
And His love endures forever.