Lent begins a 40-day journey of the Christian to remember his baptism, in which he dies and is buried with Christ. Although Lent properly ends at Maundy Thursday, the day before Jesus dies and is buried, the entire season looks with sorrowful anticipation to Christ’s death on the cross. Yet, Jesus’ crucifixion is not a sad event! It is where our sins were taken away from us and our old man died with Christ to be born anew.
Backing up 40 days then, Lent actually begins on a Wednesday called Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, Christians receive the symbol of the cross on their forehead in ashes, which are made from burning last years Palm Sunday palm branches. The ashes remind us of our old Adam who died with Christ – and continually dies each day – through Baptism. The cross reminds us of the sign of the cross made on our foreheads at our Baptism – the day we were made saints and children of God.