Ash Wednesday is the opening day of Lent, when some Christians receive ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance. With the ashes, the priest may say, “Remember that you are dust and that you will return to dust” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
The tradition of receiving ashes dates back to the second century. Receiving ashes is a confession of sin and a desire to repent.
Sin is an archaic term that means missing the mark. Anyone who disobeys God’s commandments has sinned or missed the mark and must repent.
To repent, one must turn away from his sin and go the other way by ceasing his sinful activity.
Ash Wednesday is also a day of fasting. Fasting goes back to the time of the ancient Jews. It is a part of repentance, but also a time of prayer to God for His intervention.
For Catholics, ashes should be received during Mass. They can be washed after Mass, but many prefer to wear them as a keepsake during the day. The ashes themselves are made from the blessed palm tree from the previous Palm Sunday.
Behavior after receiving ashes is important. Many people do not go to work after receiving ashes. In fact, this is not the time to go out in public. It is a day of fasting, so eating out is not considered appropriate, nor is going to the mall or the movies. This time should be spent in prayer and listening for the voice of God in your life.
Lent is usually called the forty days before Easter. However, this is not quite correct because Sunday is not included in Lent. Thus, the total number of days of Lent is 46.
Lent is a time of reflection, fasting and prayer. Many people sacrifice time and money for missions or volunteer for other types of humanitarian projects.
Some church fathers from the early fifth century believed that the celebration of Lent began with the apostles. Each time it began, its purpose was to bring us closer to God.
The habit of giving up meat varies, many people choose to give up things they like, such as candy or cheeseburgers, but in some cases it is impossible to give up meat altogether. The purpose of giving up these things is not to make us suffer or feel uncomfortable, but to spend more time with God and to make our own lives easier. Today’s society is so complex that it is not bad to give things up for a while.
For example, 46 days without social media, cell phones, computers or electronic games, television or fast food could easily give the family time to get to know each other better.
With the approach of World War II, it became much more difficult in Catholic countries to observe Lent. Animal products were not allowed at all. Today’s vegans would have no problem with that. There would be one meal a day and a vegetable soup. But there was a purpose for that. The purpose was to use the extra time for prayer and meditation, and the money not spent on food would go to the poor.
Removing things or foods that take up our time is really a positive thing, and when you think about it, it’s not really hard. The goal is to get to know God better. It’s only been a little over 50 years since the Vatican Council met and allowed Catholics to read their Bibles and hear Mass in English. During Lent, a whole new world of spirituality opens up to us. Take it easy, listen, pray and reach out to God. He is waiting to reach out to you.
Frequently asked questions
What is the purpose of Lent and Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is important because it marks the beginning of Lent, which leads to Easter, when Christians believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. Ash Wednesday symbolizes both death and repentance. During this time, Christians repent and grieve over their sins because they believe that Christ died for them.
What do you eat on Ash Wednesday?
In 1966, Church law changed the ban on meat on Fridays throughout the year to abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Many Catholics observe this abstinence every Friday during Lent, preferring fish to meat (beef, pork, poultry, etc.).
Does Lent end on Ash Wednesday?
In the Roman Rite, since 1970, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the evening of Maundy Thursday (before the evening Mass of the Last Supper). It consists of 44 days. Lent does not include Sundays and lasts until Good Friday and Silent Saturday, 40 days in total.
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