Author: Galina Samson (Voronezh, Russia)
A year ago, when I saw that one of the meditations in The Upper Room had the title ‘Ash Wednesday’, I didn’t really understand what that meant. I soon learned that Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, known as the ‘Great Fast’ in Russian Christianity. On this day some churches perform a symbolic action. The sign of the cross is made in ashes on people’s foreheads as a sign of our humanity and of our need for God.
Whatever name we give this day, it is the beginning of a time of self-examination. It is not only a time to give up something we enjoy but also a time to take on some form of ministry in Christ’s name. Through the prophet Isaiah God says, ‘Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?’ (Isaiah 58:6-7).
It seems, then, that the fast includes spending more time with God through prayer and reading the Bible as well as serving God through acts of love toward my neighbours. What a privilege!
Prayer: Dear God, give us the strength and resolve to observe a genuine fast by showing justice and compassion toward our neighbours. In Jesus’ name. Amen