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On Wednesday, many Christians will show up to work with ashes smudged on their foreheads. Many more will head to church on their lunch break or after work to receive a cross of ashes on their face.
But what exactly is the purpose of the centuries-old Christian tradition?
In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter.
Christians from many denominations recognize the holy season for 40 days leading up to Easter. For centuries, Christians have received a sign of the cross with ashes on their forehead at the beginning of that season as a reminder of mortal failings and an invitation to receive God’s forgiveness. The tradition has its origins in the Old Testament where sinners performed acts of public penance.
The use of ashes is to remind parishioners of their mortality. During Ash Wednesday service, the phrase, "Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” from the Book of Genesis is traditionally employed.
Rev. Gregory Wilson, pastor at St. Mary’s Help of Christians Catholic church in Aiken, South Carolina, offers believers two things to consider when observing Ash Wednesday: prayer and sacrifice.
Jesus commanded believers to love one another just as He loved us.
Here are 4 ways in which we can show our love for one another.
As men, one of the greatest things we can do and perhaps the hardest thing we will do is to forgive one another. It is one thing to forgive but it is impossible to forget, even so, Jesus said that we are to forgive one another just as God has forgiven us. Paul writes that we should be “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:13). Paul doesn’t say whether the compliant is valid or not or if the complaint has been forgiven or not but simply be “forgiving each other [just] as the Lord has forgiven you” and in the same way “you also must forgive.” This doesn’t mean bringing it up over and over again but giving up your right to be right which means we are to be “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32). The word “forgive” means to release or let go of a thing or to put it this way; “for giving it away.”
Too often we are quick to criticize and hesitant to encourage or compliment a brother. This is one of those things that is free to give away and you have an unending supply. To give encouragement means to literally give to them courage. To encourage someone is to give someone hope or support and is particularly important when someone is discouraged (or literally lacks courage). Did you know that the Greek word for “encourage” is “parakaleo” and is a compound word of “coming along side of” (para) “to implore” (kaleo) so if you encourage someone you are coming along side of them and imploring them to keep on keeping on. Paul writes “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess 5:11) so encouraging someone is really building up another person and the Body of Christ, the church.
Every one of us in this fraternity has had to suffer in this life but as the saying goes, “a joy shared is doubled, a burden shared is halved” and so it is, if we help to bear one another’s burdens. We can lighten the load of someone who is experiencing some great loss or undergoing a great trial, even if it’s just sitting there and listening. Paul writes to the church in Galatia to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” and so if we bear one another’s burden, we are fulfilling the Law of Christ. The word used for “bear” is “bastazō” and this means “to take up with the hands” and “to put one’s self under to carry.” That’s it! Bearing one another’s burden is taking it up and carrying part of the load by being sympathetic, by listening, by caring, and carrying part of that load.
I believe we give another brother hope when we are transparent and confess our faults and sins to one another because this makes others feel that they are not alone in their own struggles with sin. And to pray for one another shows that we care enough to help them with the sins that they have confessed. There is nothing that turns people off to Christianity more than to be a “holier than thou” Christian. Many people I witness in our chapter, I freely confess my faults and what this transparency does is break down the wall that seems to separate Christians from the rest of the world. If we are transparent enough with our lives then other bothers will see that they don’t have to be perfect and since they are not expected to be perfect to be saved, it might make them think it’s possible to be saved and think more seriously about coming to Jesus Christ for help and confessing their own sins. James admonishes us to “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man (person) has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).
We cannot possibly love one another the way we ought to without the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit but it can be done. Pray to God to be more Christ-like, stay in His Word, and you can be more loving to one another. That kind of love is contagious and it might be just what your lost friends are looking for.
May God richly bless us all,
Pastor A. Scott Galbraith, Chaplain – Epsilon Xi
"Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction" …
"Every moment is a fresh beginning." "Life is not about expecting, hoping, and wishing, it is about doing, being and becoming"...
“You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”
After having said goodbye to 2022, we now prepare for what 2023 brings our way.
Rituals, are a great way for you to symbolically make the transition into this new year. Specifically, they help remind us that we are a part of a bigger picture and offer us wonderful ways to connect on a deeper level with those closest to us, including ourselves.
Consider adding one of the following ideas to your own plans for 2023.
Many people tend to focus only on what is ahead when it comes to the beginning of a new year. Others find it just as important and therapeutic to review the year that just concluded. Take a moment every day to spiritually evaluate 2022.
What did you accomplish in 2022? Take a moment to honor each accomplishment as well as examine any deviation from your plans. What did you do this past year that you’d never done before? What new things did you learn and what challenges did you face? End by writing a list or a journal entry detailing the top ten highlights of the year as a whole.
Did you know that in Italy, people throw things out of the windows on New Year’s Eve? It is because they feel it’s just as important to get rid of old things that no longer serve them as it is to embrace new things.
Of course, no one is suggesting that you throw your clutter out the window into the street. However, you might want to consider setting aside one day to get rid of some things you no longer need. Go through your home and collect clothing, books, or other items that you can stand to part with and give them a new lease on life by donating them to a local charity.
Many cultures around the world celebrate the New Year with rituals meant to ward off bad luck and attract good fortune. Some start the New Year by physically throwing money through their front door the first time they enter their home after the new year has begun. Here’s a modern twist on that tradition.
Gather your family and bless a few coins or paper bills together. Formal prayer is a great way to do this, but, if you’re not religious, stating your hopes for the year to come works fine as well. What you do with that money after that is up to you. You can keep it yourself, but it might be even nicer to give it away to charity as a wonderful way to spiritually pay it forward.
For many people, the first 21 days of a new year represent each of the twelve months to come. Pay homage to this idea by spending those 21 days focused on what you most want your year to hold.
Interested in being more charitable this year? Spend one of the days giving back to youth in the community, volunteer to serve Veterans, feed homeless, or become a mentor. Make an impact in your city!
A chaplain is a certified clergy member who provides spiritual care for individuals in a non-religious organization, rather than a church congregation. Chaplains can work in fraternities, government roles and serve members of the military in different locations. They can serve patients in healthcare or hospice facilities.
I invite you to leave your prayer request, here, on our website. In addition, reach out through email…
Join Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. as we uplift the Kingdom of God!
In the shadow of Our Founders,
Pastor A. Scott Galbraith
Epsilon Xi Chaplain