The meaning of the celebration
+ On this day the Church celebrates the “day of ashes,” marking the beginning of the forty days of Lent.
+ “Lent” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “springtime” and is both a time of penance and renewal oriented toward helping us grow in our commitment as disciples of Jesus.
+ The forty days of Lent recall the forty days Jesus spent praying and fasting in the wilderness, the days that Noah and his family spent on the ark following the great flood, and the forty years the People of Israel spent in the desert before entering the Promised Land.
+ The traditional “good works” of Lent are prayer, fasting, and acts of charity (especially giving alms for the poor).
+ Each year the Holy Father issues a special “Message” for the Season of Lent. To read this year’s message, click here.
+ The season of Lent ends on the afternoon of Holy Thursday. At that time, the Church enters the Paschal Triduum and our annual remembrance of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
Lent marks the time when those preparing for baptism (the catechumens who are now known as the “Elect”) begin their final preparations for initiation into the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist at the Easter Vigil. During these days, take time to reflect on how you are living out your own baptismal commitment. Think about what in your life needs to be healed or re-directed, so that when you renew your baptismal promises on Easter Sunday, you can do so with greater freedom and with a renewed sense of commitment to follow Christ.
“You are merciful to all, O Lord,
and despise nothing that you have made.
You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance,
and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God.”—Wisdom 11:24, 25, 27 (Entrance Antiphon for Ash Wednesday)
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.Access our archives of daily saint biographies here