But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.
(Malachi 3: 2-3 NRSV)
February, I discovered while researching material for this column, comes from the Latin “to purify.”
The early Romans held religious rites to purify themselves for festivals that would be held at the start of the New Year. Their New Year began in March. Around 690 BC, Numa Pompilius turned a period of celebration at the end of the year into a month of its own, named after the festival Februa. (It sounds to me sort of like Lent – a time of fasting and purification before an important holy day!)
So what should we do to purify ourselves? Well, we are a month away from Ash Wednesday, so we have some time to consider the matter. But it might behoove us to do some warm-up exercises.
Maybe we should spend time reading Scripture. Take a look at some lesser visited books (Malachi, maybe, or Habakkuk?); there is good stuff there! Read the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-11) and try to live up to them! Remember, we should purify ourselves before trying to lead others to a closer walk with God.
Women particularly will enjoy the Book of Ruth, a love story for the ages. Men will profit from reading the Letter of James in the New Testament, a social gospel, to be sure, and one that calls on the men of the church family to help the pastor care for the flock.