Calvin prepares for liturgical season of Lent

ash wednesday lent

On March 5, 2014, the Christian Church will mark the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent through the celebration of Ash Wednesday. Although much of the liturgical church year has fallen out of practice in many Protestant denominations, Calvin College still chooses to participate in a traditional Ash Wednesday service.

“Prior to Calvin, I thought it was a Catholic thing,” said senior Alicia Bos, “but I think it’s great that Calvin participates in Ash Wednesday services.”

Junior Jenny LaJoye also thinks that Ash Wednesday is something that unites Christians in both practice and as a deeper body of believers.

“Growing up Catholic, even during the school day, we would all go to Mass, and you would get ashes on your forehead,” said LaJoye. “Even though I didn’t fully understand the significance, I knew it was significant and it was cool to be a part of that.”

While many see the practice of putting ashes on one’s head as an exclusive or ostracizing practice making some people appear holier or more spiritual than others, LaJoye sees it differently.

“Part of the point is to walk around with the ashes on your forehead … That sounds exclusive, but it’s really so inclusive because you are being included into something bigger,” said LaJoye.

But beyond just uniting the student body of Calvin College to a larger church tradition, Ash Wednesday also serves to mark the beginning of Lent and is a reminder of our call to imitate the humility of Christ.

“It’s a reminder and a very humbling experience, and I think humility is the start of a lot of growth,” said senior Josiah Gorter. “It’s a chance for us to come together and reflect on the humility of Christ.”

Senior Kellan Day said she sees value in being reminded of our frailty in a culture that often encourages us to believe we are immortal.

“To receive the ashes on our forehead, with the words ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’ is a countercultural reminder that our life is like a blade of grass that will eventually wither and die,” Day said. “In a culture that strives towards immortality and is ignorant of our effect on future generations, we must be physically reminded of our frailty.”

Day would also encourage students to not only participate in Calvin’s Ash Wednesday service, but to participate in a service in a church as well.

“To gather with those in the body of Christ — all generations and races — is essential during our time of communal repentance and a communal reminder that God is God and we are dust.”

On March 5, Calvin will hold a traditional Ash Wednesday service including the imposition of the ashes during the regularly scheduled chapel service. Several area churches will also hold services throughout the day.

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