We have completed another advent/ Christmas season. January reminds me of the name sake “Janus” with heads facing back and forward. This is a month we begin looking forward with resolutions and renewed hope. We also look back. This year we have an unusual Lenten season. Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. The last time this happened was 1945. Looking back, as we know that was quite a tumultuous year.
Pennsylvania really likes our chocolate, from Hershey to Mars / Doves, to Wilber buds. Valentine’s day is our kind of holy day for chocolates and hearts.
What could Valentine’s day possibly have to do with Ash Wednesday other than following on the same day this year? Ash Wednesday has a traditional significance that is two-fold: awareness of our mortality and repentance. We remember we are ashes and ashes we shall return. Love may be eternal, but life is not. Ash Wednesday helps us love now because we will one-day die. Death is the deadline. We will one day be unable to show love. The awareness that our live comes to an end helps us live today, love today and not put it off until tomorrow.
So go ahead and write that note, forgive that person, make that phone call, visit that person, give the hug to the one you love. The time to do that is now.
The golden globes carried with it an historical significance this year. Celebrities dressed all in black and wore pins saying “Time’s Up” to take seriously discrimination and sexual harassment and abuse of women. Ash Wednesday the dark or grey ash marks the time limit, or our mortality awareness.
Ash Wednesday is also about repentance. To repent is to change our mind. Love means changing our mind at times to reconcile with those who have hurt us. We repent of those words and actions that were not about love. We repent not simply individually, but collectively. We repent as a nation for those times we have not loved. Celebrities are not the only ones who have been touched by abuse. We repent of our participation in harm. Ash Wednesday begins our journey through Lent as we enter into a time of self-reflection and an examination of conscience.
As all of us know love is about sacrifice. Lent is about sacrifice. The movie “Chocolat” was set during Lent. I am not so concerned if you give up eating Pennsylvania Dutch chocolate or anything for that matter during the 40 days of Lent. I am concerned that we turn from harming others and change our mind or repent of actions, thoughts and words that hurt instead of heal.