The season of Lent will begin on Wednesday. I'm working on a longer post (or series of posts) on the role of liturgical seasons and fasting in second temple Judaism, the New Testament and early Christianity. It is important to keep in mind that the practice of spending an appointed time in prayer and fasting is nothing new. Stay tuned for more on that.
As I find myself thinking about what my particular plans will be for the Lenten season, I have to remind myself not to view its observance as merely a legalistic obligation. Getting our ashes on Wednesday is more than a fashion statement. We need to forget the exterior dimensions and focus more and more on our own need for interior conversion. Besides, ashes don't make very good fashion statements.
Pope Benedict dedicated his Sunday Angelus address to this topic and had some wonderful things to say about it. Here's an excerpt:
"The Lenten season must not be faced with an "old" spirit, as if it were a heavy and tedious obligation, but with the new spirit of the one who has found in Jesus and his paschal mystery the meaning of life, and now feels that everything must make reference to him. This was the attitude of the Apostle Paul, who affirmed that he left everything behind to be able to know Christ "and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11)."God, come to our assistance. Lord, make haste to help us.