The date of Ash Wednesday is always determined by the date of Easter, and now you know…
But what about Easter itself?
Why does it keep moving around? The date of Easter, the Resurrection of Our Lord, is determined by looking for the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Does this make sense to you? Well, I couldn’t possibly comment, but the fact that the date of Easter is at least beginning to be a topic for conversation within some parts of the worldwide body of Christ is encouraging, if not dramatically so. You see, the eastern part of the Christian Church, which, although many different and autonomous bodies, not all of which are in communion with each other, uses an older calendar which was abandoned in the West several centuries ago, so the dates for Easter are, most years, different in western Christianity and Eastern.
We, in both the Anglican and Lutheran Communions, as part of the catholic, or western, tradition use the newer calendar, which means we always have Easter, and so the beginning of Lent, first. This year, because Easter is pretty early – although not as early as it can be – Ash Wednesday is soon upon us. In fact, it’s coming right up, on February 13th to be exact. So will begin again our Lenten journey, our pilgrimage with our Lord Jesus to the Cross.
I have a suggestion for what to give up this year for Lent: I suggest we give up the whole idea of giving up, as in scorekeeping with coffee or chocolate or, well, you fill in the blank. That’s all far too trivial. Historically, Lent was a time for people, mostly adult people, to prepare for Baptism at the Great Vigil of Easter (after sunset on the night before Easter Sunday). We who have already been baptized are invited to renew that baptismal journey, our own suffering and dying with Christ, so that we may also be raised with him, and celebrate his Resurrection, and ours, for a whole week of weeks, the seven weeks between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday.
It all begins with Ash Wednesday, a rather odd day, but an important one nonetheless. I want to share with you a quote from the Introduction to A Lent Sourcebook, published by Liturgy Training Publications, a wonderful Roman Catholic publisher in Chicago:
“Ash Wednesday is a kind of baptismal branding. We are marked on our foreheads with the cross of Christ, which is a tree of life to beckon us back to the garden, a ship’s sextant to guide us to harbor, a bronze serpent to save us from dying in the desert.
“Coming back to baptism is hard work, like pruning vines, like plowing the earth, like the discipline of training for a contest. Of course, neither the hard work nor the training do the job. All of us, the faithful and the elect and the penitents, will learn this once again, when Lent is over and we have failed but God has not.”
Please join us at the Cathedral on Wednesday evening for 7 p.m. Ash Wednesday Eucharist, including the Imposition of Ashes, as once again we begin our walk with Christ, to that glorious time when we know again that “we have failed but God has not.”
What else can be said? Thanks be to God.