The gospel for Ash Wednesday comes to us straight out of the Jewish tradition in which Jesus was born and raised and which his Holy Spirit taught Israel to observe. Like the rest of Old Testament tradition, it is therefore something in which Christ is both hidden and, in light of his Resurrection, fully revealed.
This notion that Jesus is hidden in Scripture is not something invented by medievals reading the Bible as a sort of Rorshach blot in order to imagine “Jesus sightings” where none exist. The Risen Christ himself insists upon it:
“‘These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:44-47)
The Tradition, stretching back to Jesus himself, is that the pious Jewish practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are, then, not outmoded rigors imposed on believers by an imperious and authoritarian medieval Church that just likes to make people suffer, but that they are normative ways for human beings to open themselves to the life of the Spirit of the living God who loves them and who seeks to dwell with them as he dwelt in joy and love with his Son during his earthly sojourn.
Indeed, the point of Lent is not merely that we should experience this life as Jesus experienced it, but that we should prepare ourselves for the unthinkable, transformed, divinized, resurrected, and glorified life of Jesus as he still experiences it in his risen form at this very moment. Lent is not about preparation for Easter eggs, nice clothes, and maybe a ham on Sunday. It is about getting ready to experience the shock and awe of the literal Resurrection of the Son of God; raised, touched, beheld, poked, prodded, dined with, breathing upon his disciples, cooking fish, appearing, disappearing, and being seen with the mortal eyes of some five hundred eyewitnesses.
Lent is about readying our bodies, souls, and spirits to live in a world where the Son of God has taken our mortal flesh down into the grave, not to get rid of it and emerge as a spirit, but to raise it up glorious and transformed in an event that is to the New Creation what the Big Bang is to the Old Creation. In Christ’s Resurrection, God has already begun to transform, not just our bodies, but (in the end) the entire universe into what Scripture calls “the New Heaven and the New Earth” (Revelation 21:1).
Much more here–and it’s not behind a paywall!