Western Christians wore a mark of ashes Wednesday as they entered the solemn season of Lent, the 40-day period of reflection and prayer that leads up to the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
At congregations around the Midlands, pastors and priests prayed and placed a sign of the cross on the foreheads of the faithful, a visible reminder of human mortality and the need for repentance before God. Among the common texts used on Ash Wednesday is Genesis 3:16: “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”
At Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church in West Columbia, the Rev. Glenn Boland presided over a service for about 50 parishioners, using ashes he had prepared Tuesday night from burning palms.
The solemn service “is a time of renewal, a renewal of faith and practice,” said Boland.
At Mt. Taber, the Lenten liturgy runs deep through the generations. “There is a strong tradition during Lent to be more involved in prayer and Bible study. Some people even give up things during Lent or take on more things during Lent” as they reflect on Christ’s sacrifice.
The Ash Wednesday service is “a first step in the Lenten journey to remember Christ’s passion,” he said.
During Lent, congregations have an opportunity to enhance spiritual life with special services as they move through the 40 days, symbolic of the 40 days Christ fasted in the wilderness before he began his public ministry.
St. Andrews Lutheran Church on St. Andrews Road will begin a series of Lenten dramas Wednesday that are rooted in solid theology and expressive drama, said the Rev. John Trump.
Trump, who holds a master of fine arts in playwriting from Columbia University, wrote the “Sow What?” series based on the biblical parable of the sower and the seeds written in the New Testament book of Matthew.
“Plays have a way of allowing people to dive into the mysteries of faith and leave it a mystery,” said Trump. The 7 p.m. plays will be directed by Vicky Saye Henderson, an actor and staff member of Trustus Theatre. The dramas follow a sung liturgy that the congregation has come to know and love, Trump said.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral opens its “Claiming the Past, Realizing the Future” Preacher Series Wednesday, a program that continues each Wednesday through March 27. The guest speakers will preach at noon services at the Sumter Street cathedral and make a 6:30 p.m. presentation after the weekly Wednesday parish suppers.
Trinity’s bookstore is hosting three guest ministers for book-signings throughout Lent:
• The Rev. Michael Sullivan, pastor of Holy Innocents Church in Atlanta and a former canon for mission at Trinity, will sign his books “Windows into the Soul” and “Windows into the Light,” at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
• Feb. 27, also at 5 p.m., the Rev. Lauren Winner,a professor at Duke Divinity School, will sign her books, “Girl Meets God,” “Still” and “Mudhouse Sabbath.” Winner has been a visiting fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University and at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University.
• March 13, the Rev. Fleming Rutledge, the author of seven books, will sign copies of her works, including “The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien’s Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings.” “The Seven Last Words from The Cross” and “The Bible and the New York Times.” She also will sign books at 5 p.m.
Lent, with its focus inward on individual spirituality and growth, draws people to search for daily devotionals and other readings to enhance the season, Graves said.
“It is very helpful to read about people’s struggles in the faith,” she said. “These books themselves will be really helpful to people during the Lenten journey.”
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Great Lent begins March 18, which involves a period of fasting as well as prayer and repentance. Western Christians will celebrate Easter on March 31 while Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter on April 15.