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Ashes, Abstinence, Fasting and Penance

Ashes, Abstinence, Fasting and PenanceAsh Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season marking the beginning of a 40 day journey of Ashes, Abstinence, Fasting and Penance.

Many Christians are under the belief that these 40 days are a new diet. They give up chocolate, sweets, caffeine and more. It is really not the time to join Weight Watchers. This is not a make up period for your broken New Year’s resolutions. Rather than concerning ourselves with simple atonement that others might notice. Better we do penance for our sins than continue breaking God’s heart.

“Wherever you are in the spiritual life, Jesus Christ wants to encounter you right there and take you further…” ~ Steve Bollman

If we spend these 40 days in reflection and prayer.

  • Take time each day to investigate our own hearts.
  • Start a conversation with your Heavenly Father.
  • Focus on forgiveness, not only of others but your own.

We are all broken sinners that by God’s Grace and healing we can be made new. Beginning a path to spiritual newness and donning the armor of our faith. We can begin to live a life of sacrificial service and fortitude. As men we are challenged by temptations throughout our life. Lent is a prime opportunity to wage war against the three main temptations.

  • The Temptation of the Flesh – sins like pride, greed, lust, anger, envy, sloth and gluttony (Deadly Sins)
  • The Temptation of the World – pursuits of the material world through power and prestige and ‘to rule over others’.
  • The Temptation of the Devil – outlets like the media, movies, t.v. and more that work hard to persuade us to live without the presence of God.

A six-week journey, spending a mere 40 days with your heavenly Father. Days well spent that will help prepare you for the death and Resurrection of Jesus. If we die unto ourselves and turn our eyes towards others. Our own sacrifice and charity is a symbolic penance of He who died upon the cross. By focusing on the cleansing of our own baptism we can return to childlike innocence this Lenten season.

The sign of the cross in Ashes is a symbol of this sacrifice. By a public display of humility, we seek forgiveness of out faults. The 40 days, 47 minus Sundays until Easter is a time for us to get right. A time to get right with God, your fellow-man and yourself.

Long ago a sinner that felt remorse would don a sackcloth (scratchy clothing) and place ashes on their foreheads. Today we take similar action to express our sorrow and seek forgiveness. Ashes to ashes dust to dust. May you devote the next 40 days transforming your own heart through Ashes, Abstinence, Fasting and Penance as well.

Now its your turn, how are you spending your Lenten season. Do you ‘give something up’ for Lent? Join the conversation below and share your comments and thoughts.



About Charles Johnston

Charles is a Christian, husband and father of fur-kids who shares his walk with others in hopes to help other's along the way.

2 Replies

  1. What a great post. As a Catholic I can certainly appreciate this. And yes, I always give up something for lent, and abstain form meat on Ash Wednesday, and fridays, but I agree that it’s about so much more than just gving up something…many folks just don’t understand this.

  2. Jamie

    I have never “given” up anything for Lent. Although I have been a Christian for many years, I can honestly say that I don’t usually give Lent much thought. I have never been in a church that had much of a focus on Lent. I believe in living daily in my walk with the Lord…repenting on a daily basis. I agree that the OUTWARD show of giving up something for Lent is probably not at all what God wants. I think it is just plain silly…there are more important things that we should be doing for Christ besides not eating chocolate for 40 days!