March seems to bring new energy to our year. It often feels that January is still in the shadow of Christmas or perhaps even paying for Christmas! February feels like glimmers of hope and changes. But in March it really starts to change, in terms of light and day length. As we move past the 20thMarch the days become longer than the nights and it should, in theory, start to warm up as we approach summer. As it warms up, the trees and plants spring back into life. In the early calendars, March and spring signified the beginning of a new year. There is a sense of the movement from the death of winter into the new life of spring. You can see why people regarded spring as a new beginning.
From a Christian perspective, March sees the beginning of Lent. It starts on Ash Wednesday on 6th March. The ash in Ash Wednesday refers to the sign of the cross made in ash on the forehead of a person wanting to show a turning away from wrongdoing and coming back to God. Where does this originate from? In the Old Testament, several characters like Job and in the story of Jonah, the King of Nineveh wear sackcloth and ashes as a visible sign of turning back to God. The use of ashes is only recorded in the 10thand 11thcentury for admitting the penitent in readiness for baptism or for readmittance into the church at Easter. By the middle ages,the Season of Lent was seen not about getting ready to join the church but as a focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and our renewed commitment to living the Christian life. It was at this time that the whole church, not just new or returning disciples, used Lent as a time to prepare for Easter. We are encouraged to prepare by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word. I would encourage us all to try and get realigned with God and use this time of getting ready to adjust our lives into God’s way.
This year Mothering Sunday and British Summer Time coincide on the last day of March. This has two significant consequences, firstly it marks approximately the midpoint of Lent, so you still have three weeks of your Lenten observance, keep going you will be just over half way to Easter. Secondly, if you are making breakfast in bed for Mum, you will have to remember to change your alarm clock and get up an hour early! It is sometimes all about the sacrifices we make for someone else that we love that is really important. Jesus leads the way in self-sacrifice and he points us back to God’s love for us.
Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) firstname.lastname@example.org