Lent comes early this year. It seems like we just put away the last of the Christmas decorations and turned to face the new year, and here comes Ash Wednesday (Feb. 13). But part of the power of ritual, no matter the nuances of one’s theological stance, is the reaffirmation, over and over, of the cycles of life and our participation in them. Lent gives us the opportunity to delve into aspects of life we would often prefer to ignore: suffering, injustice, death. There is never new life without the death of what went before, so we begin our Lenten journey with gratitude. Even if it is early.