Symbols of Lent and Easter
Lent is an important period in the Church calendar. It is a forty-day period in preparation for Easter, the greatest feast of the Liturgical Year. In addition, it is a penitential period of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. All these aspects are geared towards following Christ in his suffering until Calvary and further. In order to be in solidarity with Jesus on his way to Calvary, we have some symbols which are very helpful during this period of lent and Easter. These symbols can help lead to a deeper appreciation of this holy season. Please find below symbols and Prayers for this week of Lent. May these reflections bless you!
ASHES - Ashes were used in the Old Testament to symbolize humility, death, and repentance. On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, Roman Catholic priests sign the faithful with ashes on their foreheads, with the traditional words, “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return.” This is a reminder of God’s creation of the first man Adam from the dust of the earth to which our bodies will return in death. Lent is a time to remind ourselves that our lives do not go on forever. They had a beginning and will have an end. Are we prepared to meet our maker?
LORD, you created me. You keep me in being. You will take me to Yourself if I trust in and follow You. Help me to remember that everything in this world is ashes. Only love lasts forever. Amen.
PRAYING HANDS - Prayer is necessary for the spiritual life all year through but especially during Lent. How can we change our lives for the good if we do not ask God how best to do it? Prayer keeps us in touch with the Lord and opens our spirits to be docile to His direction. Prayer gives us confidence that the Lord is in charge.
LORD, teach me how to pray better, to pray with greater trust, to pray for Your Will to be done, not mine. Make me open to Your promptings and docile to Your lead. Help me to give prayer first place in my life. Amen.
SACKCLOTH - Sackcloth is a coarse, black cloth which the Jewish people made from goat’s hair. Today it can be made from flax or hemp or other natural fibers to create a rough, woven fabric. The Hebrews wore sackcloth, together with wood ashes, as a sign of mourning or repentance or when praying for certain serious needs. Sackcloth can be worn under one’s clothes as a scapular or vest and can be inexpensively cut from burlap or rough cloth. Sackcloth traditionally figures in Lent as a symbol of repentance from sin.
LORD, let me clothe myself in the sackcloth of repentance. My sins irritate my conscience as sackcloth irritates a body. You, Lord, can transform me when I embrace the joy of forgiveness. Lord, give me the grace to exchange the sackcloth of my mourning for the silken robe of joy in my salvation. Amen.
PENANCE - Penance means conversion, the turning aside from the things of earth and the turning toward the things of God. Penance is what Lent is all about! What is keeping you from turning completely to the Lord? Food? Money? Possessions? A certain person? Your work? Your time? Your pleasure? A habit? Your health? Your house? Your hobby? Ask the Lord to show you the wall between you and His arms. Then make plans to begin deconstruction.
LORD, I know I am not totally in Your Will. I know I am not madly in love with You. Show me what is blocking my access to You. Help me to deconstruct that wall, Lord. Amen.
ROCKS - Rocks are symbols of Lent for many reasons. Jesus foiled Satan’s temptation to change rocks into bread before beginning His ministry. Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert which, in Israel, is a rocky, arid region. Jesus called St. Peter the “rock” when He said, “On this rock [Peter] I will build my Church.” The evangelists identified Jesus as the cornerstone, the foundation of our Faith. A familiar hymn calls God the “Rock of Ages” because He is eternal, never changing, our protecting shelter, and the foundation on which to build our lives. LORD, you are the foundation of my life. Without You, my life is barren, cold, and lifeless, as unyielding as a rock. Soften my hard heart with Your grace. Make it a welcoming dwelling place for Your Spirit. Amen.
Resources from: Missionaries of Africa; Franciscan Penance Library