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Tag Archives: Ash Wednesday

It’s Time to Bring Back an Ancient Tradition

In ancient days, tearing your clothes was a common expression upon receiving news of a tragic event. The Old Testament contains several examples of ripping off garments, religious leaders tearing their cloaks or putting a sackcloth over heads after witnessing death, shock or shame. This unusual course of action is first recorded in Genesis 37:29, “when Reuben found out that his brothers had sold Joseph off as a slave, he was shocked, ripping his clothes apart in disgust.” This response serves as an act of disappointment to demonstrate how far souls have deviated from God.

While he was yet speaking, there came also another and said, Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19 And behold, there came a great [whirlwind] from the desert, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you. 20 Then Job arose and rent his robe and shaved his head and fell down upon the ground and worshiped 21 And said, Naked (without possessions) came I [into this world] from my mother’s womb, and naked (without possessions) shall I depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed (praised and magnified in worship) be the name of the Lord! – Job 1:18-21

Instead of having an emotional outburst, making a scene in public or ranting on social media, Job came to a painful reality upon receiving the news of his children’s deaths. Human beings came into this world naked and will leave in a similar manner, returning to the dust of the earth. Job 1:21 inspired the Catholic tradition known as Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. From dust man was created and to dust mankind will return. This is why Catholics receive ash on their foreheads once a year at masses across the country and throughout the world.

But he who is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to put on the [sacred] garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose or rend his clothes [in mourning], Leviticus 21:10.

According to Moses, the only member of the Jewish community who was not allowed to tear their clothes was the high priest. Everyone else was able to express their displeasure and frustrations of others in this manner. However, this doesn’t mean you should expose yourself in public like the woman in New Hampshire who voted topless after the political shirt she was wearing went against voting rules. My generation was taught if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t open your mouth. Thus, what I am suggesting is to replace daily tirades with the ancient practice of an inward and upward release of emotions.

by Jay Mankus

Hatched, Matched and Dispatched

I heard an interesting sermon last weekend, a quick summary of the three most basic stages in life.  The first compared birth to a chicken hatched from an egg.  This initial period of infancy forces children to be dependent upon your mother and father, guardian or parents.  The early years involve learning how to walk, talk, eat and becoming potty-chained.  From a spiritual point of view, the young emulate their parents, for better or for worse.  Until the age of eight teen, give or take a few years, children remain in the nest at home until each is ready to fly or nudged.

Joseph is a fruitful bough (a main branch of the vine), A fruitful bough by a spring (a well, a fountain); Its branches run over the wall [influencing others], Genesis 49:22.

If anyone is struggling to find a significant other, there are a growing number of dating sites to find an ideal match.  Going back to the earliest days in history, God created men and women to procreate the earth.  Thus, once a certain level of maturity is reached, college students begin to search for a soul mate, seeking to be matched in Holy Matrimony.  However, there is one disclaimer: This stage in life is optional as the apostle Paul urges godly believers to remain single if its God’s will for your life.  Nonetheless, the majority of human beings seek a suitable helper in life.  As Tom Cruise once said in Jerry Maguire, “you complete me,” in reference to his wife.

By the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings lying in the deep that couches beneath, blessings of the [nursing] breasts and of the [fertile] womb.  “The blessings of your father are greater than the blessings of my ancestors [Abraham and Isaac] up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; They shall be on the head of Joseph, Even on the crown of the head of him who was the distinguished one and the one who is prince among (separate from) his brothers, Genesis 49:25-26.

While the first two stages in life bring joy, the final one introduces a painful reality, death.  Every year Catholic’s celebrate the first day of Lent by attending Ash Wednesday services.  The purpose of this day is based upon words from the book of Job.  After experiencing a series of trails in his life, Job responds with the words,” ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”  This simply means that God created Adam out of dust and one day every human being will be dispatched, becoming dust overtime as your earthly body decays.  Whether you celebrate a hatching, matching or grieve at a funeral, seize each moment that God gives you on planet earth.

by Jay Mankus

Kenosis

The season of Lent ends this week.  This religious ceremony begins Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras concludes.  Since Lent lasts forty days, human nature offers individuals one last day to indulge your fleshly desires in the form of Fat Tuesday.  This Catholic tradition was designed to give Christians time to spiritually prepare themselves for Easter, giving up meat on Fridays during these six weeks.  The goal of this spiritual season is to empty yourself, to deny self so that you become more like Christ.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” Luke 9:23.

The Bible uses a Greek term to describe a similar process.  Kenosis refers to the renunciation of the divine nature in part by Christ based upon the virgin birth of his mother Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  In layman terms, kenosis is the relinquishment of divine attributes by Jesus Christ in becoming human.  To avoid any type of addiction to the sinful nature, Christians should strive to do the opposite, replacing selfish desires by making room for God.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Galatians 2:20.

The apostle Paul highlights this process in the verse above.    Starting over spiritually requires drastic measures, crossing out your own selfish ambitions with a devotion and passion to serve the Lord.  Although changes are hard to make permanently, this is where faith comes into the equation.  May the reality of Jesus’ resurrection inspire depressed individuals with a new sense of hope for transformation.  As Easter draws near, don’t be afraid to give your life over to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Final Resting Place

At end of a grueling day, many people have a bed which serves as resting place.  The less fortunate may have to rely on a couch, sofa or floor to lay their heads.  Meanwhile, the homeless are forced to find an abandoned home, park bench or shelter to survive.  Whatever struggle you are forced to endure, everyone faces the same destination, a final resting place six feet under the earth.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

Solomon provides insight to what happens to individuals after dying.  Just as God created Adam out of dust, one day human beings will return to this previous state.  Yet, this wise king adds a new dimension to death.  In the same way that Jesus gave up his spirit on the cross, this essence returns back to the Creator the moment you pass away.  This concept suggests that our lives are on loan from God, a temporary gift that lasts far too short.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away, Revelation 21:4.

On Monday afternoon, I watched helplessly as my father in law was laid to rest.  As crying, grief and sobbing surrounded me, I came face to face with the grim reality of life.  As the casket was lowered six feet beneath the earth’s surface, this final resting place is permanent.  Yet, John the Revelator shines light on the hope which waits to those who call upon the name of the Lord.  The words in the passage above should serve as inspiration to get right with God before your hour glass of life runs out.  While your final resting place on earth will not change, there is time to secure your reservations for heaven now, 1 John 5:13.  May this blog encourage you to leave no doubt, Romans 10:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

My Two Cents on Lent

Beginning on Ash Wednesday and continuing until Easter Sunday, Lent is a season of preparation for Christians.  This forty day period commences with a service remembering God’s words to Adam, ” from dust you were created out of, from dust you will return.”  Like anything in life, it takes time to prepare one’s heart to transition from the natural to the supernatural.  Thus, Lent serves as an annual journey to embrace the memory of a resurrected Messiah.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:19

Unfortunately, this tradition is often limited to six weeks instead of maintaining faith throughout the year.  Sometime after Easter egg hunts end, when chocolates candies disappear and the emotion of this spiritual holiday ceases, people go back to their former ways of life.  Like hibernating animals, faith goes into hiding, sleeping until the winter is replaced by Spring.

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” – Job 1:20-21

Now at the half way point of Lent, its not too late to awake from a spiritual slumber.  Though shocked upon receiving the tragic news that his children perished, the Lord gave Job a heavenly perspective.  Instead of blaming God or becoming bitter, Job remembered the gift of life.  Therefore, as the season of Lent continues may the Holy Spirit transform you to become grateful for the hidden miracles in life.

by Jay Mankus

Silence: Ash Wednesday Reflection

On the cutting edge of societal evolution, one thing is rarely heard, the sound of silence.  Even teachers panic when silence fills the classroom, often breaking it with the sound of their own voice.  Meanwhile, cell phones, ipods, blackberries and text messaging are all just one click away, drowning out the sound of silence.  Unfortunately, reflecting on the days events, mediating on God’s Word and listening for the voice of God in prayer seem so distant today.

An example of this can be found in the meaning of names for cities in the Bible.  The city of Rehobeth means place of rest.  However, traveling on Route 1 in Rehobeth, Delaware creates stress, not rest.  There are a few examples in the Bible which can help us slow down, to think and get in touch with God.  David needed to go to a cave in 1 Samuel 22.  Samuel needed the guidance of Eli to discern God’s voice in 1 Samuel 2.  Elijah needed a break from the action of life in 1 Kings 19:12-13.  Lastly, Jesus needed to go into the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-11, to prepare for his earthly ministry.

Following the indulgences of Mardi Gras, comes Ash Wednesday, a day to ponder Job’s words, “from dust I entered into the world and to dust I will return.”  Every once in a while, we all need a break.  To retreat from the world every so often to refocus our priorities is refreshing and re-energizes our spiritual lives.  Practicing Psalm 46:10 can and will help put our lives into its proper perspective.  In a distant place, like Mark 1:35-39, we will find the sound of silence.  It is in this place, in the stillness of the moment, where we will meet God!

by Jay Mankus

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