By Chelcey Adami
STILLWATER, Okla. — Ashes were bestowed on the foreheads of area residents who celebrate the season of Lent on this past Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. The ashes are generally made from palm fronds from the preceding Palm Sunday and are reminders of our mortality.
“This is important since the season of Lent calls us to think about life with (and without) Christ,” Highland Park United Methodist Church Pastor Derrek Belase said.
Various Stillwater churches participate in the season which is 40 days, a biblical number symbolizing fullness, Belase said.
While the tradition was originally a time when people prepared to join the church, it is now practiced as a period of penitence and reflection to prepare for the resurrection of Jesus on Easter.
“Christians reflect upon the depth of God’s love of the world in Jesus, the Christ and examine their own lives as his disciples,” First Presbyterian Church Pastor B. Gordon Edwards said. “Upon such reflection, some will alter their lives to become more faithful disciples.”
Many people give up something, such as their favorite candy, or add something to their life, such as community service, during Lent.
“The real goal of the Lenten season is an interior renewal of heart. This interior renewal certainly includes efforts to grow in charity, but it also includes penitential practices - some private, some Church-wide - that help us die to self and live for Christ,” St. John University Parish Father Stuart Crevcoure said.
First Christian Church Pastor Owen Cayton said since Lent is a season of fasting, many Christians choose to observe the fast by giving something up.
“Fasting as a spiritual discipline is giving something up to make room in our lives for God,” Cayton said.
Salem Lutheran Church Pastor Sally Houck said that each time one is tempted to indulge in what they have given up, it’s an opportunity to connect with God and ask for strength and wisdom for that day.
There are numerous symbols associated with Lent. An unusual one is the pretzel, originally designed for use during Lent sometime during the Middle Ages when dairy products and meat were banned during Lent, Belase said.
“Bakers in Germany decided to create a food that would even look religious - the pretzel,” he said. “ The crossed arms of a pretzel represent a Christian in prayer.”
Purple is the color of Lent and historically used by royalty. In ancient times, purple dye came from rare sea mollusks that had to be crushed to garner their purple fluid, Belase said. He said he once read that one ounce of purple dye required 250,000 mollusks.
Lent concludes on Easter, April 4, which is preceded by Good Friday and Holy Saturday when many churches host a special vigil.