Ash Wednesday is here. The Holy Season of Lent is upon us.
We receive the ashes on the forehead as a sign of repentance, penance and humility. We are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are not an end in ourselves.
To be reminded that we are merely dust is a big statement. It is a reminder of our mortality. We did not will ourselves in to existence. God willed us into existence and we are answerable only to Him.
The use of ashes as a sign of repentance comes from Scripture. Its use is mentioned in Esther 4:1, Job 42:6 and Daniel 9:3. The ashes are administer by clergy or an extraordinary minister of the Holy Eucharist. Catholics and non-Catholics can receive ashes. The ashes are either scattered on one’s head or a cross is traced with it on a person’s forehead. The palms used from the Palm Sunday from the previous year are burned and this is what is used on Ash Wednesday.
No meat is eaten on this day or Fridays that follow during Lent in the United States of America. Elsewhere, every Friday of the year may be a day of abstinence from meat. The rules of fasting and abstinence are as follows:
The Code of Canon Law prescribes (Canons 1250-1252):
Can. 1250: The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Can. 1251: Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can. 1252: The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
Abstainence from Meat – Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent and/or every Friday of the year
Those ages 14 and older
Fasting – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
Those ages 18 to 59
Let us ask God for forgiveness for our sins and ask Him to help us on our journey in life. We should frequent the Sacrament of Penance often and seek spiritual guidance from a holy spiritual director during this period.
What a time Lent is. It is a period of spiritual regeneration, a time to contemplate and meditate on the salvific mystery of Christ’s life. We have 40 days to walk with the Lord just like He did in the desert. He denied Himself food for 40 days which symbolically means that what he did was for a complete purpose and for purification/preparation.
Numbers in the Bible have certain symoblic meanings. 40 was the amount of days of the flood, for 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert to prepare for His ministry and so on. We Catholics use this time to reflect on Christ and where we stand. We fast on Ash wednesday and Good Friday by eating one meal or two small meals, and we abstain from meat on those days and the Fridays that fall within the 40 days.
Lent begins on Ash wednesday. We receive the ashes and are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Sometimes in life we tend to think that we are the best thing since slice bread, but that is not so. We must remind ourselves that we are mortals, we are sinners, and we are imperfect, but it does not end there.
We can be more in Jesus Christ and only through Him can we know true love and life as it was meant to be. Lent is similar to the Jewish Yom Kippur and predates the Muslim Ramadan, but it more religiously decorated as Catholics are famous for doing in order to make things more solemn and dignified.
We should take this time to pray more, express faith more by doing more works of charity for others, not for our self elevation, but for the glory of God and love of Him and our neighbor.